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MODERN KNOWLEDGE 



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NCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

JY JANE ELLEN HARRISON, LL.D., D.Litt. 



London 
WILLIAMS & NORGATE 



HENRY HOLT Sc Co., New York 
Canada : VVM. BRTGGS, Toronto 
India : R. Sc T. W ASHBOURNE, Ltd. 




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PROF. WILLIAM T. BREWSTER, M.A. 
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ANCIENT ART 
AND RITUAL 



JANE ELLEN HARRISON, 

LL.D., D.LiTT. 

AUTHOR OF "primitive ATHENS," 

" religion of ancient greece," 

"prolegomena to the study of 

greek religion," etc. 



LONDON 

WILLIAMS AND NORGATE 



7/3 



O 



Richard Clay & Sons, Limiteh, 

torhnswick street, stamford strert, s. e. 

and bunoav, suffolk. 



PREFATORY NOTE 

It may be well at the outset to say clearly 
what is the aim of the present volume. The 
title is Ancient Art and Ritual, but the reader 
will find in it no general summary or even 
outline of the facts of either ancient art or 
ancient ritual. These facts are easily accessible 
in handbooks. The point of my title and 
the real gist of my argument lie perhaps 
in the word "«??fZ" — that is, in the inti- 
mate connection which I have tried to show 
exists between ritual and art. This connection 
has, I believe, an important bearing on 
questions vital to-day, as, for example, the 
question of the place of art in our modern 
civilization, its relation to and its difference 
from religion and morality; in a word, on 
the whole enquiry as to what the nature of 
art is and how it can help or hinder spiritual 
life. 

I have taken Greek drama as a typical 
instance, because in it we have the clear 
historical case of a great art, which arose 
out of a very primitive and almost world- 
wide ritual. The rise of the Indian drama, 
or the mediaeval and from it the modern 



vi PREFATORY NOTE 

stage, would have told us the same tale and 
served the like purpose. But Greece is 
nearer to us to-day than either India or the 
Middle Ages. 

Greece and the Greek drama remind me that 
I should like to offer my thanks to Professor 
Gilbert Murray, for help and criticism which 
has far outrun the limits of editorial duty. 

J. E. H. 

Newriham College^ 

Cambridge, June 1913. 



CONTENTS 



CHAP. PAGB 

I ART AND RITUAL 9 

II PRIMITIVE RITUAL : PANTOMIMIC DANCES . 29 

III PERIODIC CEREMONIES : THE SPRING FESTIVAL 49 

IV THE PRIMITIVE SPRING DANCE OR DITHYRAMB, 

IN GREECE 75 

V THE TRANSITION FROM RITUAL TO ART : THE 

DROMENON AND THE DRAMA . . .119 

VI GREEK SCULPTURE : THE PANATHENAIC FRIEZE 

AND THE APOLLO BELVEDERE . . .170 

VII RITUAL, ART AND LIFE .... 204 

BIBLIOGRAPHY 253 

INDEX 255 



ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 



CHAPTER I 

ART AND RITUAL 

The title of this book may strike the reader 
as strange and even dissonant. What have 
art and ritual to do together ? The ritualist 
is, to the modern mind, a man concerned 
perhaps unduly with fixed forms and cere- 
monies, ^ith carrying out the rigidly pre- 
scribed ordinances of a church or sect. The 
artist, on the other hand, we think of as free 
in thought and untrammelled by convention in 
practice ; his tendency is towards licence. Art 
and ritual, it is quite true, have diverged 
to-day; but the title of this book is chosen 
advisedly. Its object is to show that these 
two divergent developments have a common 
root, and that neither can be understood 
without the other. It is at the outset one 
9 



10 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

and the same impulse that sends a man to| 
church and to the theatre. 

Such a statement may sound to-day para- 
doxical, even irreverent. But to the Greek 
of the sixth, fifth, and even fourth century B.C., 
it would have been a simple truism. We 
shall see this best by following an Athenian 
to his theatre, on the day of the great Spring 
Festival of Dionysos. 

Passing through the entrance-gate to the 
theatre on the south side of the Acropolis, 
our Athenian citizen will find himself at once 
on holy ground. He is within a temenos or 
precinct, a place " cut off " from the common 
land and dedicated to a god. He will pass to 
the left (Fig. 2, p. 144) two temples standing 
near to each other, one of earlier, the other of 
later date, for a temple, once built, was so 
sacred that it would only be reluctantly 
destroyed. As he enters the actual theatre 
he will pay nothing for his seat ; his attendance 
is an act of worship, and from the social point 
of view obligatory; the entrance fee is there- 
fore paid for him by the State. 

The theatre is open to all Athenian citizens, 
but the ordinarv man will not venture to 



ART AND RITUAL 11 

seat himself in the front row. In the front 
row, and that only, the seats have backs, 
and the central seat of this row is an arm- 
chair; the whole of the front row is perma- 
nently reserved, not for individual rich men 
who can afford to hire " boxes," but for 
certain State officials, and these officials are 
all priests. On each seat the name of the 
o^vner is inscribed ; the central seat is " of 
the priest of Dionysos Eleuthereus," the god 
of the precinct. Near him is the seat " of 
the priest of Apollo the Laurel-Bearer," and 
again " of the priest of Asklepios," and " of 
the priest of Olympian Zeus," and so on 
round the whole front semicircle. It is as 
though at His Majesty's the front row of 
stalls was occupied by the whole bench of 
bishops, with the Archbishop of Canterbury 
enthroned in the central stall. 

The theatre at Athens is not open night 
by night, nor even day by day. Dramatic 
performances take place only at certain high 
festivals of Dionysos in winter and spring. 
It is, again, as though the modern theatre was 
open only at the festivals of the Epiphany 
and of Easter. Our modern, at least our 
Protestant, custom is in direct contrast. We 



12 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

tend on great religious festivals rather to 
close than to open our theatres. Another 
point of contrast is in the time allotted to 
the performance. We give to the theatre 
our after-dinner hours, when work is done, 
or at best a couple of hours in the afternoon. 
The theatre is for us a recreation. The Greek 
theatre opened at sunrise, and the whole 
day was consecrated to high and strenuous 
religious attention. During the five or six 
days of the great Dionysia, the whole city 
w^as in a state of unwonted sanctity, under 
a taboo. To distrain a debtor was illegal; 
any personal assault, however trifling, was 
sacrilege. 

Most impressive and convincing of all is 
the ceremony that took place on the eve 
of the performance. By torchlight, accom- 
panied by a great procession, the image 
of the god Dionysos himself was brought to 
the theatre and placed in the orchestra. 
Moreover, he came not only in human but 
in animal form. Chosen young men of the 
Athenians in the flower of their youth — 
epheboi — escorted to the precinct a splendid 
bull. It was expressly ordained that the 
bull should be " worthy of the god " ; he was. 



ART AND RITUAL 13 

' |in fact, as we shall presently see, the primitive 
incarnation of the god. It is, again, as though 
in our modern theatre there stood, " sanctify- 
ing all things to our use and us to His service," 
the human figure of the Saviour, and beside 
him the Paschal Lamb. 

But now we come to a strange thing. A 
god presides over the theatre, to go to the 
theatre is an act of worship to the god Dio- 
nysos, and yet, when the play begins, three 
times out of four of Dionvsos we hear nothinor. 
We see, it may be, Agamemnon returning 
from Troy, Clytemnestra waiting to slay him^ 
the vengeance of Orestes, the love of Phaedra 
for Hippolytos, the hate of Medea and the 
slaying of her children : stories beautiful, 
tragic, morally instructive it may be, but 
scarcely, we feel, religious. The orthodox 
Greeks themselves sometimes complained that 
in the plays enacted before them there was 
" nothing to do with Dionysos." 

If drama be at the outset divine, with its 
roots in ritual, why does it issue in an art 
profoundly solemn, tragic, yet purely human ? 
The actors wear ritual vestments like those 
of the celebrants at the Eleusinian mysteries. 



14 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

Why, then, do we find them, not executing a 
religious service or even a drama of gods and 
goddesses, but rather impersonating mere 
Homeric heroes and heroines ? Greek drama, 
which seemed at first to give us our chie, to 
show us a real link between ritual and art, 
breaks down, betrays us, it would seem, just 
at the crucial moment, and leaves us with our 
problem on our hands. 

Had we only Greek ritual and art we might 
well despair. The Greeks are a people of 
such swift constructive imagination that 
they almost always obscure any problem of 
origins. So fair and magical are their cloud- 
capp'd towers that they distract our minds 
from the task of digging for foundations. There 
is scarcely a problem in the origins of Greek 
mythology and religion that has been solved 
within the domain of Greek thinking only. 
Ritual with them was, in the case of drama, 
so swiftly and completely transmuted into 
art that, had we had Greek material only to 
hand, we might never have marked the tran- 
sition. Happily, however, we are not confined 
within the Greek paradise. Wider fields 
are open to us; our subject is not only Greek, 
but ancient art and ritual. We can turn at 



ART AND RITUAL 15 

once to the Egyptians, a people slower- 
witted than the Greeks, and watch their 
sluggish but more instructive operations. 
To one who is studying the development of 
the human mind the average or even stupid 
child is often more illuminating than the 
abnormally brilliant. Greece is often too 
near to us, too advanced, too modern, to be 
for comparative purposes instructive. 

Of all Egyptian, perhaps of all ancient 
deities, no god has lived so long or had so ^\ide 
and deep an influence as Osiris. He stands 
as the prototype of the great class of resur- 
rection-gods who die that they may live 
again. His sufferings, his death, and his resur- 
rection were enacted year by year in a great 
mystery-play at Abydos. In that mystery- 
play was set forth, first, what the Greeks 
call his agon, his contest with his enemy 
Set; then his pathos, his suffering, or down- 
fall and defeat, his wounding, his death, and 
his burial; finally, his resurrection and "re- 
cognition," his anagnorisis either as himself 
or as his only begotten son Horus. Now the 
meaning of this thrice-told tale we shall con- 
sider later ; for the moment we are concerned 



16 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

only with the fact that it is set forth both in 
art and ritual. 

At the festival of Osiris small images of the 
god were made of sand and vegetable earth, 
his cheek bones were painted green and his 
face yellow. The images were cast in a mould 
of pure gold, representing the god as a mummy. 
After sunset on the 24th day of the month 
Choiak, the effigy of Osiris was laid in a grave 
and the image of the previous year was re- 
moved. The intent of all this was made 
transparently clear by other rites. At the 
beginning of the festival there was a ceremony 
of ploughing and sowing. One end of the 
field was sown with barley, the other with 
spelt ; another part with flax. While this was 
going on the chief priest recited the ritual 
of the " sowing of the fields." Into the 
" garden " of the god, which seems to have 
been a large pot, were put sand and barley, 
then fresh living water from the inundation 
of the Nile was poured out of a golden vase 
over the " garden " and the barley was al- 
lowed to grow up. It was the symbol of the 
resurrection of the god after his burial, " for 
the growth of the garden is the growth of the 
divine substance." 



ART AND RITUAL 17 

The death and resurrection of the gods, 
and pari passu of the hfe and fruits of the 
earth, was thus set forth in ritual, but — and 
this is our immediate point — it was also set 
forth in definite, unmistakable art. In the 
great temple of Isis at Philae there is a chamber 
dedicated to Osiris. Here is represented the 
dead Osiris. Out of his body spring ears of 
corn, and a priest waters the growing stalk 
from a pitcher. The inscription to the 
picture reads : This is the form of him whom 
one may not name, Osiris of the mysteries, who 
springs from the returning waters. It is but 
another presentation of the ritual of the 
month Choiak, in which effigies of the god 
made of earth and corn were buried. When 
these effigies were taken up it would be found 
that the corn had sprouted actually from the 
body of the god, and this sprouting of the 
grain would, as Dr. Frazer says, be " hailed 
as an omen, or rather as the cause of the 
growth of the crops." ^ 

Even more vividly is the resurrection set 

forth in the bas-reliefs that accompany the 

great Osiris inscription at Denderah. Here 

the god is represented at first as a mummy 

1 Adonis, Attis, Osiris,^ p. 324. 

B 



18 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

swathed and lying flat on his bier. Bit by 
bit he is seen raising himself up in a series 
of gymnastieally impossible positions, till at 
last he rises from a bowl — perhaps his 
" garden " — all but erect, between the out- 
spread wings of Isis, while before him a male 
figure holds the crux ansata, the " cross with 
a handle," the Egyptian symbol of life. In 
ritual, the thing desired, i. e. the resurrection, 
is acted, in art it is represented. 

No one will refuse to these bas-reliefs the 
title of art. In Egypt, then, we have clearly 
an instance — only one out of many — where 
art and ritual go hand in hand. Countless 
bas-reliefs that decorate Egyptian tombs and 
temples are but ritual practices translated 
into stone. This, as we shall later see, is an 
important step in our argument. Ancient 
art and ritual are not only closely connected, 
not only do they mutually explain and 
illustrate each other, but, as we shall presently 
find, they actually arise out of a common 
human impulse. 

The god who died and rose again is not of 
course confined to Egypt; he is world-wide. 
When Ezekiel (viii. 14) " came to the gate of 



ART AND RITUAL 19 

the Lord's house which was toward the 
north " he beheld there the " women w^eeping 
for Tammuz." This " abomination " the 
house of Judah had brought with them from 
Babylon. Tammuz is Dumuzi, " the true 
son," or more fully, Dumuzi-absu, " true son 
of the waters." He too, like Osiris, is a god 
of the life that springs from inundation and 
that dies down in the heat of the summer. 
In Milton's procession of false gods, 

" Thammuz came next behind. 
Whose annual wound in Lebanon allured 
The Syrian damsels to lament his fate 
In amorous ditties all a summer's day." 

Tammuz in Babylon was the young love of 
Ishtar. Each year he died and passed below 
the earth to the place of dust and death, 
" the land from which there is no returning, 
the house of darkness, where dust lies on door 
and bolt." And the goddess went after him, 
and while she w^as below, life ceased in the 
earth, no flower blossomed and no child of 
animal or man was born. 

We know Tammuz, " the true son," best 
by one of his titles, Adonis, the Lord or King. 



20 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

The Rites of Adonis were celebrated at mid- 
summer. That is certain and memorable; 
for, just as the Athenian fleet was setting sail 
on its ill-omened voyage to Syracuse, the 
streets of Athens were thronged with funeral 
processions, everywhere was seen the image of 
the dead god, and the air was full of the 
lamentations of weeping women. Thucydides 
does not so much as mention the coincidence, 
but Plutarch^ tells us those who took account 
of omens were full of concern for the fate of 
their countrymen. To start an expedition 
on the day of the funeral rites of Adonis, the 
Canaanitish " Lord," was no luckier than to 
set sail on a Friday, the death-day of the 
" Lord " of Christendom. 

The rites of Tammuz and of Adonis, cele- 
brated in the summer, were rites of death 
rather than of resurrection. The emphasis is 
on the fading and dying down of vegetation 
rather than on its upspringing. The reason 
of this is simple and will soon become mani- 
fest. For the moment we have only to note 
that while in Egypt the rites of Osiris are 
represented as much by art as by ritual, in 
Babylon and Palestine in the feasts of Tammuz 
1 Vit. Nik., 13. 



ART AND RITUAL 21 

and Adonis it is ritual rather than art that 
obtains. 

We have now to pass to another enquiry. 
We have seen that art and ritual, not only 
in Greece but in Egypt and Palestine, are 
closely linked. So closely, indeed, are they 
linked that we even begin to suspect they 
may have a common origin. We have now 
to ask, what is it that links art and ritual so 
closely together, what have they in common ? 
Do they start from the same impulse, and if 
so why do they, as they develop, fall so widely 
asunder ? 

It will clear the air if we consider for a 
moment what we mean by art, and also in 
somewhat greater detail what we mean by 
ritual. 

Art, Plato ^ tells us in a famous passage of 
the Republic, is imitation; the artist imitates 
natural objects, which are themselves in his 
philosophy but copies of higher realities. All 
the artist can do is to make a copy of a copy, 
to hold up a mirror to Nature in which, as 
he turns it whither he will, " are reflected 
sun and heavens and earth and man," any- 
1 Rep. X, 596-9. 



22 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

thing and everything. Never did a statement 
so false, so wrong-headed, contain so much 
suggestion of truth — truth which, by the help 
of analysing ritual, we may perhaps be able 
to disentangle. But first its falsehood must 
be grasped, and this is the more important 
as Plato's misconception in modified form 
lives on to-day. A painter not long ago thus 
defined his own art : " The art of painting is 
the art of imitating solid objects upon a flat 
surface by means of pigments," A sorry 
life-work ! Few people to-day, perhaps, 
regard art as the close and realistic copy of 
Nature; photography has at least scotched, 
if not slain, that error ; but many people still 
regard art as a sort of improvement on or an 
" idealization " of Nature. It is the part of 
the artist, they think, to take suggestions and 
materials from Nature, and from these to 
build up, as it were, a revised version. It 
is, perhaps, only by studying those rudi- 
mentary forms of art that are closely akin to 
ritual that we come to see how utterly wrong- 
headed is this conception. 

Take the representations of Osiris that we 
have just described — the mummy rising bit 
by bit from his bier. Can any one maintain 



ART AND RITUAL 23 

that art is here a copy or imitation of 
reahty ? However " reahstic " the painting, 
it represents a thing imagined not actual. 
There never was any such person as Osiris, 
and if there had been, he would certainly 
never, once mummified, have risen from his 
tomb. There is no question of fact, and the 
copy of fact, in the matter. Moreover, had 
there been, why should anyone desire to make 
a copy of natural fact ? The whole " imita- 
tion " theory, to which, and to the element 
oL truth it contains, we shall later have 
occasion to return, errs, in fact, through 
supplying no adequate motive for a wide- 
spread human energy. It is probably this 
lack of motive that has led other theorizers 
to adopt the view that art is idealization. 
Man with pardonable optimism desires, it is 
thought, to improve on Nature. 

Modern science, confronted with a problem 
like that of the rise of art, no longer casts 
about to conjecture how art might have Sinsen, 
she examines how it actually did arise. 
Abundant material has now been collected 
from among savage peoples of an art so 
primitive that we hesitate to call it art at 



24 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

all, and it is in these inchoate efforts that we 
are able to track the secret motive springs 
that move the artist now as then. 

Among the Huichol Indians,^ if the people 
fear a drought from the extreme heat of the 
sun, they take a clay disk, and on one side of 
it they paint the " face " of Father Sun, a 
circular space surrounded by rays of red and 
blue and yellow which are called his " arrows," 
for the Huichol sun, like Phoebus Apollo, has 
arrows for rays. On the reverse side they 
will paint the progress of the sun through the 
four quarters of the sky. The journey is 
symbolized by a large cross-like figure with a 
central circle for midday. Round the edge 
are beehive-shaped mounds; these represent 
the hills of earth. The red and yellow dots 
that surround the hills are cornfields. The 
crosses on the hills are signs of wealth and 
money. On some of the disks birds and 
scorpions are painted, and on one are curving 
lines which mean rain. These disks are 
deposited on the altar of the god-house and 
left, and then all is well. The intention might 

1 C. H. Lumholtz, Symbolism of the Huichol Indians, 
in Mem. of the Am. Mus. of Nat. Hist., Vol. Ill, " Anthro- 
pology." (1900.) 



ART AND RITUAL 25 

be to us obscure, but a Huichol Indian would 
read it thus : " Father Sun with his broad 
shield (or ' face ') and his arrows rises in the 
east, bringing money and wealth to the 
Huichols. His heat and the light from his 
rays make the corn to grow, but he is asked 
not to interfere with the clouds that are 
gathering on the hills." 

Now is this art or ritual ? It is both and 
neither. We distinguish between a form of 
prayer and a work of art and count them in 
no danger of confusion ; but the Huichol goes 
back to that earlier thing, a presentation. He 
utters, expresses his thought about the sun 
and his emotion about the sun and his relation 
to the sun, and if " prayer is the soul's sincere 
desire " he has painted a prayer. It is not 
a little curious that the same notion comes out 
in the old Greek word for " prayer," euche. 
The Greek, when he wanted help in trouble 
from the " Saviours," the Dioscuri, carved a 
picture of them, and, if he was a sailor, added 
a ship. Underneath he inscribed the word 
euche. It was not to begin with a "vow" 
paid, it was a presentation of his strong inner 
desire, it was a sculptured prayer. 

Ritual then involves imitation ; but does 



26 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

not arise out of it. It desires to recreate an 
emotion, not to reproduce an object. A rite 
is, indeed, we shall later see (p. 42), a sort of 
stereotyped action, not really practical, but 
yet not wholly cut loose from practice, a 
reminiscence or an anticipation of actual 
practical doing; it is fitly, though not quite 
correctly, called by the Greeks a dromenon, 
" a thing done." 

At the bottom of art, as its motive power 
and its mainspring, lies, not the wish to 
copy Nature or even improve on her — the 
Huichol Indian does not vainly expend his 
energies on an effort so fruitless — but rather 
an impulse shared by art with ritual, the de- 
sire, that is, to utter, to give out a strongly 
felt emotion or desire by representing, by 
making or doing or enriching the object or 
act desired. The common source of the art 
and ritual of Osiris is the intense, world- 
wide desire that the life of Nature which 
seemed dead should live again. This common 
emotional factor it is that makes art and 
ritual in their beginnings well-nigh indistin- 
guishable. Both, to begin with, copy an 
act, but not at first for the sake of the copy. 
Only when the emotion dies down and is 



ART AND RITUAL 27 

forgotten does the copy become an end in 
itself, a mere mimicry. 

It is this downward path, this sinking of 
making to mimicry, that makes us now-a-days 
think of ritual as a dull and formal thing. 
Because a rite has ceased to be believed in, 
it does not in the least follow that it will 
cease to be done. We have to reckon with all 
the huge forces of habit. The motor nerves, 
once set in one direction, given the slightest 
impulse tend always to repeat the same 
reaction. We mimic not only others but 
ourselves mechanically, even after all emotion 
proper to the act is dead; and then because 
mimicry has a certain ingenious charm, it 
becomes an end in itself for ritual, even for art. 

It is not easy, as we saw, to classify the 
Huichol prayer-disks. As prayers they are 
ritual, as surfaces decorated they are speci- 
mens of primitive art. In the next chapter 
we shall have to consider a kind of ceremony 
very instructive for our point, but again not 
very easy to classify — the pantomimic dances 
which are, almost all over the world, so striking 
a feature in savage social and religious life. 
Are they to be classed as ritual or art ? 



28 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

These pantomime dances lie, indeed, at the 
very heart and root of our whole subject, and 
it is of the first importance that before going 
further in our analysis of art and ritual, we 
should have some familiarity with their 
general character and gist, the more so as 
they are a class of ceremonies now practically 
extinct. We shall find in these dances the 
meeting-point between art and ritual, or 
rather we shall find in them the rude, inchoate 
material out of which both ritual and art, at 
least in one of its forms, developed. Moreover, 
we shall find in pantomimic dancing a ritual 
bridge, as it were, between actual life and 
those representations of life which we call art. 

In our next chapter, therefore, we shall 
study the ritual dance in general, and try to 
understand its psychological origin ; in the fol- 
lowing chapter (III) we shall take a particular 
dance of special importance, the Spring Dance 
as practised among various primitive peoples. 
We shall then be prepared to approach the 
study of the Spring Dance among the Greeks, 
which developed into their drama, and thereby 
to, we hope, throw light on the relation between 
ritual and art. 



CHAPTER II 

PRIMITIVE RITUAL: PANTOMIMIC DANCES 

In books and hymns of bygone days, which 
dealt "VNath the reUgion of " the heathen in hi& 
bhndness," he was pictured as a being of 
strange perversity, apt to bow down to " gods 
of wood and stone." The question why he 
acted thus fooHshly was never raised. It 
was just his " bhndness " ; the Hght of the 
gospel had not yet reached him. Now-a-days 
the savage has become material not only for 
conversion and hymn- writing but for scientific 
observation. We want to understand his 
psychology, i. e. how he behaves, not merely 
for his sake, that we may abruptly and 
despotically convert or reform him, but for 
our own sakes; partly, of course, for sheer 
love of knowing, but also, — since we realize 
that our own behaviour is based on instincts 
kindred to his, — in order that, by understand- 
ing his behaviour, we may understand, and it 
may be better, our own. 
29 



30 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

Anthropologists who study the primitive 
peoples of to-day find that the worship of 
false gods, bowing " down to wood and stone," 
bulks larger in the mind of the hymn-writer 
than in the mind of the savage. We look for 
temples to heathen idols; we find dancing 
places and ritual dances. The savage is a 
man of action. Instead of asking a god to 
do what he wants done, he does it or tries to 
do it himself; instead of prayers he utters 
spells. In a word, he practises magic, and 
above all he is strenuously and frequently 
engaged in dancing magical dances. When 
a savage wants sun or wind or rain, he does 
not go to church and prostrate himself before 
a false god ; he summons his tribe and dances 
a sun dance or a wind dance or a rain dance 
When he would hunt and catch a bear, he does 
not pray to his god for strength to outwit and 
outmatch the bear, he rehearses his hunt in a 
bear dance. 

Here, again, we have some modern prejudice 
and misunderstanding to overcome. Dancing 
is to us a light form of recreation practised by 
the quite young from sheer joie de vivre, and 
essentially inappropriate to the mature. But 
among the Tarahumares of Mexico the word 



PRIMITIVE RITUAL 31 

noldvoa means both " to work " and " to 
dance." An old man will reproach a young 
man saying, " Why do you not go and work ? " 
(noldvoa). He means "Why do you not 
dance instead of looking on ? " It is strange 
to us to learn that among savages, as a man 
passes from childhood to youth, from youth 
to mature manhood, so the number of his 
" dances " increase, and the number of these 
" dances " is the measure pari passu of his 
social importance. Finally, in extreme old 
age he falls out, he ceases to exist, because he 
cannot dance ; his dance, and with it his 
social status, passes to another and a younger. 

Magical dancing still goes on in Europe to- 
day. In Swabia and among the Transylvania n 
Saxons it is a common custom, says Dr. Frazer,^ 
for a man who has some hemp to leap high 
in the field in the belief that this will make 
the hemp grow tall. In many parts of 
Germany and Austria the peasant thinks he 
can make the flax grow tall by dancing or 
leaping high or by jumping backwards from 
a table; the higher the leap the taller will 

^ These instances are all taken from The Golden Bovjjh/' 
The Magic Art, I, 139 fj. 



32 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

be the flax that year. There is happily little 
possible doubt as to the practical reason 
of this mimic dancing. When Macedonian 
farmers have done digging their fields they 
throw their spades up into the air and, catch- 
ing them again, exclaim, " May the crop grow 
as high as the spade has gone." In some 
parts of Eastern Russia the girls dance one 
by one in a large hoop at midnight on Shrove 
Tuesday. The hoop is decked with leaves, 
flowers and ribbons, and attached to it are 
a small bell and some flax. While dancing 
within the hoop each girl has to wave her 
arms vigorously and cry, "Flax, grow," or 
words to that effect. When she has done 
she leaps out of the hoop or is lifted out of it 
by her partner. 

Is this art ? We shall unhesitatingly 
answer " No." Is it ritual ? With some 
hesitation we shall probably again answer 
" No." It is, we think, not a rite, but merely 
a superstitious practice of ignorant men 
and women. But take another instance. 
Among the Omaha Indians of North America, 
when the corn is withering for want of rain, 
the members of the sacred Buffalo Society fill 
a large vessel with w^ater and dance four times 



PRIMITIVE RITUAL 33 

round it. One of them drinks some of the 
water and spirts it into the air, making a 
fine spray in imitation of mist or drizzhng 
rain. Then he upsets the vessel, spilling the 
water on the ground ; whereupon the dancers 
fall down and drink up the water, getting mud 
all over their faces. This saves the corn. 
Now probably any dispassionate person would 
describe such a ceremonial as "an interesting 
instance of primitive rituuV The sole differ- 
ence between the two types is that, in the one 
the practice is carried on privately, or at least 
unofficially, in the other it is done publicly by 
a collective authorized body, officially for the 
public good. 

The distinction is one of high importance, 
but for the moment what concerns us is, to 
see the common factor in the two sets of acts, 
what is indeed their source and mainspring. 
In the case of the girl dancing in the hoop and 
leaping out of it there is no doubt. The 
words she says, " Flax, grow," prove the 
point. She does what she wants done. Her 
intense desire finds utterance in an act. She 
obeys the simplest possible impulse. Let any- 
one watch an exciting game of tennis, or 
better still perhaps a game of bilHards, he 



34 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

will find himself doing in sheer sympathy the 
thing he wants done, reaching out a tense arm 
where the billiard cue should go, raising an 
unoccupied leg to help the suspended ball over 
the net. Sympathetic magic is, modern 
psychology teaches us, in the main and at the 
outset, not the outcome of intellectual illusion, 
not even the exercise of a " mimetic instinct," 
but simply, in its ultimate analysis, an utter- 
ance, a discharge of emotion and longing. 

But though the utterance of emotion is the 
prime and moving, it is not the sole, factor. 
We may utter emotion in a prolonged howl, 
we may even utter it in a collective prolonged 
howl, yet we should scarcely call this ritual, 
still less art. It is true that a prolonged 
collective howl will probably, because it is 
collective, develop a rhythm, a regular recur- 
rence, and hence probably issue in a kind of 
ritual music ; but for the further stage of de- 
velopment into art another step is necessary. 
We must not only utter emotion, we must 
represent it, that is, we must in some way 
reproduce or imitate or express the thought 
which is causing us emotion. Art is not 
imitation, but art and also ritual frequently 
and legitimately contain an element of imita- 



PRIMITIVE RITUAL 35 

tion. Plato was so far right. What exactly 
is imitated we shall see when we come to 
discuss the precise difference between art 
and ritual. 

The Greek word for a rite as already noted is 
dromenon, "a thing done " — and the word is 
full of instruction. The Greek had realized 
that to perform a rite you must do something, 
that is, you must not only feel something but 
express it in action, or, to put it psycho- 
logically, you must not only receive an 
impulse, you must react to it. The word 
for rite, dromenon, " thing done," arose, of 
course, not from any psychological analysis, 
but from the simple fact that rites among the 
primitive Greeks were things done, mimetic 
dances and the like. It is a fact of cardinal 
importance that their word for theatrical 
representation, drama, is own cousin to their 
word for rite, dromenon ; drama also means 
"thing done." Greek linguistic instinct pointed 
plainly to the fact that art and ritual are near 
relations. To this fact of crucial importance 
for our argument we shall return later. But 
from the outset it should be borne in mind 
that in these two Greek words, dromenon and 



// 



36 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

drama, in their exact meaning, their relation 
and their distinction, we have the keynote 
and clue to our whole discussion. 

For the moment we have to note that the 
Greek word for rite, dromenon, " thing done," 
is not strictly adequate. It omits a factor 
of prime importance; it includes too much 
and not enough. All " things done " are 
not rites. You may shrink back from a blow; 
that is the expression of an emotion, that is a 
reaction to a stimulus, but that is not a rite. 
You may digest your dinner; that is a thing 
done, and a thing of high importance, but it 
is not a rite. 

One element in the rite we have already 
observed, and that is, that it be done col- 
lectively, by a number of persons feeling the 
same emotion. A meal digested alone is 
certainly no rite; a meal eaten in common, 
under the influence of a common emotion, 
may, and often does, tend to become a rite. 

Collectivity and emotional tension, two 
elements that tend to turn the simple reaction 
into a rite, are — specially among primitive 
peoples — closely associated, indeed scarcely 
separable. The individual among savages 



PRIMITIVE RITUAL 37 

has but a thin and meagre personaHty; high 
emotional tension is to him only caused and 
maintained by a thing felt socially; it is 
what the tribe feels that is sacred, that is 
matter for ritual. He may make by himself 
excited movements, he may leap for joy, for 
fear; but unless these movements are made 
by the tribe together they mil not become 
rhythmical ; they will probably lack intensity, 
and certainly permanence. Intensity, then, 
and collectivity go together, and both are 
necessary for ritual, but both may be present 
without constituting art; we have not yet 
touched the dividing line between art and 
ritual. When and how does the dromenon, 
the rite done, pass over into the drama ? 

The genius of the Greek language ]elt, before 
it consciously knew, the difference. This 
feeling ahead for distinctions is characteristic 
of all languages, as has been well shown by 
Mr. Pearsall Smith ^ in another manual of 
our series. It is an instinctive process arising 
independently of reason, though afterwards 
justified by it. What, then, is the distinction 
between art and ritual which the genius of the 

^ " The English Language,'^ Home University Library, 
p. 28. 



38 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

Greek language felt after, when it used the 
two words dromenon and drama for two differ- 
ent sorts of " things done " ? To answer our 
question we must turn for a brief moment to 
psychology, the science of human behaviour. 

We are accustomed for practical con- 
venience to divide up our human nature into 
partitions — intellect, will, the emotions, the 
passions — with further subdivisions, e. g. of 
the intellect into reason, imagination, and the 
like. These partitions we are apt to arrange 
into a sort of order of merit or as it is 
called a hierarchy, with Reason as head 
and crown, and under her sway the emotions 
and passions. The result of establishing this 
hierarchy is that the impulsive side of our 
nature comes off badly, the passions and even 
the emotions lying under a certain ban. This 
popular psychology is really a convenient and 
perhaps indispensable mythology. Reason, 
the emotions, and the will have no more 
separate existences than Jupiter, Juno, and 
Minerva. 

A more fruitful way of looking at our 
human constitution is to see it, not as a 
bundle of separate faculties, but as a sort of 



PRIMITIVE RITUAL 39 

continuous cycle of activities. What really 
happens is, putting it very roughly, something 
of this sort. To each one of us the world is, or 
seems to be, eternally divided into two halves. 
On the one side is ourself, on the other all the 
rest of things. All our action, our behaviour, 
our life, is a relation between these two halves, 
and that behaviour seems to have three, not 
divisions, but stages. The outside world, 
the other half, the object if we like so to call 
it, acts upon us, gets at us through our senses. 
We hear or see or taste or feel something ; to 
put it roughly, we perceive something, and as 
we perceive it, so, instantly, we feel about it, 
towards it, we have emotion. And, instantly 
again, that emotion becomes a motive-power, 
we re-s,ct towards the object that got at us, 
we want to alter it or our relation to it. If 
we did not perceive we should not feel, if we 
did not feel we should not act. When we 
talk — as w^e almost must talk — of Reason, 
the Emotions, or the Passions and the Will 
leading to action, we think of the three stages 
or aspects of our behaviour as separable and 
even perhaps hostile ; we want, perhaps, to 
purge the intellect from all infection of the 
emotions. But in reality, though at a given 



40 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

moment one or the other element, knowing, 
feeling, or acting, may be dominant in our 
consciousness, the rest are always immanent. 
When we think of the three elements or 
stages, knowing, feeling, striving, as all being 
necessary factors in any complete bit of 
human behaviour, we no longer try to arrange 
them in a hierarchy with knowing or reason 
at the head. Knowing — ^that is, receiving 
and recognizing a stimulus from without — 
would seem to come first; we must be acted 
on before we can re-act; but priority confers 
no supremacy. We can look at it another 
way. Perceiving is the first rung on the ladder 
that leads to action, feeling is the second, 
action is the topmost rung, the primary goal, 
as it were, of all the climbing. For the 
purpose of our discussion this is perhaps the 
simplest way of looking at human behaviour. 

Movement, then, action, is, as it were, the 
goal and the end of thought. Perception 
finds its natural outlet and completion in 
doing. But here comes in a curious considera- 
tion important for our purpose. In animals, 
in so far as they act by " instinct," as we say, 
perception, knowing, is usually followed im- 



PRIMITIVE RITUAL 41 

mediately and inevitably by doing, by such 
doing as is calculated to conserve the animal 
and his species ; but in some of the higher 
animals, and especially in man, where the 
nervous system is more complex, perception is 
not instantly transformed into action ; there is 
an interval for choice between several possible 
actions. Perception is pent up and becomes, 
helped by emotion, conscious representation. 
Now it is, psychologists tell us, just in this 
interval, this space between perception and 
reaction, this momentary halt, that all our 
mental life, our images, our ideas, our con- 
sciousness, and assuredly our religion and our 
art, is built up. If the cycle of knowing, 
feeling, acting, were instantly fulfilled, that 
is, if we were a mass of well- contrived in- 
stincts, we should hardly have dromena, and 
we should certainly never pass from dromena 
to drama. Art and religion, though perhaps 
not wholly ritual, spring from the incomplete 
cycle, from unsatisfied desire, from perception 
and emotion that have somehow not found 
immediate outlet in practical action. When 
we come later to establish the dividing line 
between art and ritual we shall find this fact 
to be cardinal. 



42 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

We have next to watch how out of repre- 
mentation repeated there grows up a kind of 
tibstraction which helps the transition from 
ritual to art. When the men of a tribe 
return from a hunt, a journey, a battle, 
or any event that has caused them keen 
and pleasant emotion, they will often re- 
act their doings round the camp-fire at 
night to an attentive audience of women 
and young boys. The cause of this world- 
wide custom is no doubt in great part 
the desire to repeat a pleasant experience; 
the battle or the hunt will not be re-enacted 
unless it has been successful. Together with 
this must be reckoned a motive seldom absent 
from human endeavour, the desire for self- 
exhibition, self- enhancement. But in this 
re-enactment, we see at once, lies the germ of 
history and of commemorative ceremonial, 
and also, oddly enough, an impulse emotional 
in itself begets a process we think of as 
^characteristically and exclusively intellectual, 
the process of abstraction. The savage begins 
with the particular battle that actually did 
happen; but, it is easy to see that if he re- 
enacts it again and again the particular battle 
or hunt will be forgotten, the representation 



PRIMITIVE RITUAL 43 

cuts itself loose from the particular action from 
which it arose, and becomes generalized, as it 
were abstracted. Like children he plays not 
at a funeral, but at " funerals," not at a battle, 
but at battles ; and so arises the war- dance, or 
the death-dance, or the hunt-dance. This will 
serve to show how inextricably the elements 
of knowing and feeling are intertwined. 

So, too, with the element of action. If 
we consider the occasions when a savage 
dances, it will soon appear that it is not only 
after a battle or a hunt that he dances in 
order to commemorate it, but before. Once 
the commemorative dance has got abstracted 
or generalized it becomes material for the 
magical dance, the dance pre-done. A tribe 
about to go to war will work itself up by a 
war dance ; about to start out hunting they 
will catch their game in pantomime. Here 
clearly the main emphasis is on the practical, 
the active, doing-element in the cycle. The 
dance is, as it were, a sort of precipitated de- 
sire, a discharge of pent-up emotion into action. 

In both these kind of dances, the dance 
that commemorates by re-presenting and the 
dance that anticipates by pre-presenting, Plato 
would have seen the element of imitation, 



44 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

what the Greeks called mimesis, which he be- 
lieved we saw to be the very source and essence 
of all art. In a sense he would have been right. 
The commemorative dance does especially 
r^-present; it reproduces the past hunt or 
battle ; but if we analyse a little more closely 
we see it is not for the sake of copying the 
actual battle itself, but for the emotion felt 

I about the battle. This they desire to re-live. 

^^^ The emotional element is seen still more 
clearly in the dance fore-done for magical 
purposes. Success in war or in the hunt is 
keenly, intensely desired. The hunt or the 
battle cannot take place at the moment, so 
the cycle cannot complete itself. The desire 
cannot find utterance in the actual act; it 
grows and accumulates by inhibition, till at 
last the exasperated nerves and muscles can 
bear it no longer ; it breaks out into mimetic 
anticipatory action. But, and this is the impor- 
tant point, the action is mimetic, not of what 
you see done by another; but of what you 
desire to do yourself. The habit of this mimesis 
of the thing desired, is set up, and ritual 
begins. Ritual, then, does imitate, but for an 
emotional, not an altogether practical, end. 



PRIMITIVE RITUAL 45 

Plato never saw a savage war-dance or a 
hunt-dance or a rain-dance, and it is not 
likely that, if he had seen one, he would have 
allowed it to be art at all. But he must often 
have seen a class of performances very similar, 
to which unquestionably he would give the 
name of art. He must have seen plays like 
those of Aristophanes, with the chorus dressed 
up as Birds or Clouds or Frogs or Wasps, and 
he might undoubtedly have claimed such plays 
as evidence of the Tightness of his definition. 
Here were men imitating birds and beasts, 
dressed in their skins and feathers, mimicking 
their gestures. For his own days his judg- 
ment would have been unquestionably right; 
but again, if we look at the beginning of 
things, we find an origin and an impulse 
much deeper, vaguer, and more emotional. 

The beast dances found widespread over the 
savage world took their rise when men really 
believed, what St. Francis tried to preach : 
that beasts and birds and fishes were his 
" little brothers." Or rather, perhaps, more 
strictly, he felt them to be his great brothers 
and his fathers, for the attitude of the Aus- 
tralian towards the kangaroo, the North 
American towards the grizzly bear, is one of 



46 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

affection tempered by deep religious awe. The 
beast dances look back to that early phase 
of civilization which survives in crystallized 
form in what we call totemism. " Totem " 
means tribe, but the tribe was of animals 
as well as men. In the Kangaroo tribe there 
were real leaping kangaroos as well as men- 
kangaroos. The men-kangaroos when they 
danced and leapt did it, not to imitate kan- 
garoos — you cannot imitate yourself — ^but 
just for natural joy of heart because they 
were kangaroos ; they belonged to the 
Kangaroo tribe, they bore the tribal marks 
and delighted to asseii: their tribal unity. 
What they felt was not mimesis but " par- 
ticipation," unity, and community. Later, 
when man begins to distinguish between 
himself and his strange fellow-tribesmen, to 
realize that he is not a kangaroo like other 
kangaroos, he will try to revive his old faith, 
his old sense of participation and oneness, by 
conscious imitation. Thus though imitation is 
not the object of these dances, it grows up in 
and through them. It is the same with art. 
The origin of art is not mimesis, but mimesis 
springs up out of art, out of emotional ex- 
pression, and constantly and closely neigh- 



PRIMITIVE RITUAL 47 

boiirs it. Art and ritual are at the outset 
alike in this, that they do not seek to copy a 
fact, but to reproduce, to re-enact an emotion. 

We shall see this more clearly if we examine 
for a moment this Greek word mimesis. We 
translate mimesis by '' imitation," and we 
do very wrongly. The word mimesis means 
the action or doing of a person called a mime. 
Now a mime was simply a person who dressed 
up and acted in a pantomime or primitive 
drama. He was roughly what we should 
call an actor ^ and it is significant that in the 
word actor we stress not imitating but acting, 
doing, just what the Greek stressed in his 
words dromenon and drama. The actor dresses 
up, puts on a mask, wears the skin of a beast 
or the feathers of a bird, not, as we have 
seen, to copy something or some one who is 
not himself, but to emphasize, enlarge, en- 
hance, his own personality; he masquerades, 
he does not mimic. 

The celebrants in the very primitive ritual 
of the Mountain-Mother in Thrace were, we 
know, called mimes. In the fragment of his 
lost play, .^schylus, after describing the din 
made by the " mountain gear " of the Mother, 



48 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

the maddening hum of the bombykes, a sort of 
spinning-top, the clash of the brazen cymbals 
and the twang of the strings, thus goes on : 

" And bull- voices roar thereto from some- 
where out of the unseen, fearful inimeSi and 
from a drum an image, as it were, of thunder 
underground is borne on the air heavy Avith 
dread." 

Here we have undoubtedly some sort of "bull- 
roaring," thunder- and wind-making ceremony, 
like those that go on in Australia to-day. 
The mimes are not mimicking thunder out 
of curiosity, they are making it and enacting 
and uttering it for magical purposes. When 
a sailor wants a wind he makes it, or, as he 
later says, he whistles for it; when a savage 
or a Greek wants thunder to bring rain he 
makes it, becomes it. But it is easy to see 
that as the belief in magic declines, what was 
once intense desire, issuing in the making of 
or the being of a thing, becomes mere copying 
of it; the mime, the maker, sinks to be in 
our modern sense the mimic ; as faith declines, 
folly and futility set in ; the earnest, zealous 
act sinks into a frivolous mimicry, a sort of 
child's-play^ 



CHAPTER III 

SEASONAL RITES : THE SPRING FESTIVAL 

We have seen in the last chapter that 
whatever interests primitive man, whatever 
makes him feel strongly, he tends to re-enact. 
Any one of his manifold occupations, hunting, 
fighting, later ploughing and sowing, provided 
it be of sufficient interest and importance, is 
material for a dromenon or rite. We have 
also seen that, weak as he is in individuality, 
it is not his private and personal emotions 
that tend to become ritual, but those that 
are public, felt and expressed officially, that 
is, by the whole tribe or community. It is 
further obvious that such dances, when they 
develop into actual rites, tend to be performed 
at fixed times. We have now to consider when 
and why. The element of fixity and regular 
repetition in rites cannot be too strongly 
emphasized. It is a factor of paramount im- 
portance, essential to the development from 
ritual to art, from dromenon to drama. 
D 49 



50 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

The two great interests of primitive man 
are food and children. As Dr. Frazer has well 
said, if man the individual is to live he must 
have food; if his race is to persist he must 
have children. '' To live and to cause to 
live, to eat food and to beget children, 
these were the primary wants of man in the 
past, and they will be the primary wants 
of men in the future so long as the world 
lasts." Other things may be added to enrich 
and beautify human life, but, unless these 
wants are first satisfied, humanity itself must 
cease to exist. These two things, therefore, 
food and children, were what men chiefly 
sought to procure by the performance of 
magical rites for the regulation of the seasons. 
They are the very foundation-stones of that 
ritual from which art, if we are right, took its 
rise. From this need for food sprang seasonal, 
periodic festivals. The fact that festivals are 
seasonal, constantly recurrent, solidifies, makes 
permanent, and as already explained (p. 42), 
in a sense intellectualizes and abstracts the 
emotion that prompts them. 

The seasons are indeed only of value to 
primitive man because they are related, as 
he swiftly and necessarily finds out, to his 



SEASONAL RITES 51 

food supply. He has, it would seem, little 
sensitiveness to the aesthetic impulse of the 
beauty of a spring morning, to the pathos 
of autumn. What he realizes first and fore- 
most is, that at certain times the animals, 
and still more the plants, which form his food, 
appear, at certain others they disappear. It 
is these times that become the central points, 
the focuses of his interest, and the dates of 
his religious festivals. These dates will vary, of 
course, in different countries and in different 
climates. It is, therefore, idle to attempt a 
study of the ritual of a people without knowing 
the facts of their climate and surroundings. 
In Egypt the food supply will depend on 
the rise and fall of the Nile, and on this rise 
and fall will depend the ritual and calendar 
of Osiris. And yet treatises on Egyptian 
religion are still to be found which begin by 
recounting the rites and mythology of Osiris, 
as though these were primary, and then end 
with a corollary to the effect that these rites 
and this calendar were " associated " with 
the worship of Osiris, or, even worse still, 
" instituted by " the religion of Osiris. The 
Nile regulates the food supply of Egypt, the 
monsoon that of certain South Pacific islands ; 



52 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

the calendar of Egypt depends on the Nile, 
of the South Pacific islands on the monsoon. 

In his recent Introduction to Mathematics ^ 
Dr. Whitehead has pointed out how the 
" whole life of Nature is dominated by the 
existence of periodic events." The rotation 
of the earth produces successive days; the 
path of the earth round the sun leads to the 
yearly recurrence of the seasons; the phases 
of the moon are recurrent, and though artificial 
light has made these phases pass almost 
unnoticed to-day, in climates where the skies 
are clear, human life was largely influenced 
by moonlight. Even our own bodily life, 
with its recurrent heart-beats and breathings, 
is essentially periodic. ^ The presupposition 
of periodicity is indeed fundamental to our 
very conception of life, and but for periodicity 
the very means of measuring time as a quan- 
tity would be absent. 

Periodicity is fundamental to certain de- 
partments of mathematics, that is evident; 
it is perhaps less evident that periodicity is 
a factor that has gone to the making of 
ritual, and hence, as we shall see, of art. 

1 Chapter XII : " Periodicity in Nature.'* 2 75/^. 



SEASONAL RITES 53 

And yet this is manifestly the case. All 
primitive calendars are ritual calendars, suc- 
cessions of feast-days, a patchwork of days 
of different quality and character recurring; 
pattern at least is based on periodicity. But 
there is another and perhaps more important 
way in which periodicity affects and in a 
sense causes ritual. We have seen already 
that out of the space between an impulse 
and a reaction there arises an idea or *' pre- 
sentation." A " presentation " is, indeed, it 
would seem, in its final analysis, only a de- 
layed, intensified desire — a desire of which 
the active satisfaction is blocked, and which 
runs over into a *' presentation." An image 
conceived " presented," what we call an idea 
is, as it were, an act prefigured. 

Ritual acts, then, which depend on the 
periodicity of the seasons are acts neces- 
sarily delayed. The thing delayed, expected, 
waited for, is more and more a source of 
value, more and more apt to precipitate into 
what we call an idea, which is in reality but 
the projected shadow of an unaccomplished 
action. More beautiful it may be, but com- 
paratively bloodless, yet capable in its turn 
of acting as an initial motor impulse in the 



54 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

cycle of activity. It will later (p. 70) be seen 
that these periodic festivals are the stuff of 
which those faded, unaccomplished actions 
and desires which we call gods — ^Attis, Osiris, 
Dionysos — are made. 

To primitive man, as we have seen, beast 
and bird and plant and himself were not 
sharply divided, and the periodicity of the 
seasons was for all. It will depend on man's 
social and geographical conditions whether he 
notices periodicity most in plants or animals. 
If he is nomadic he will note the recurrent 
births of other animals and of human children, 
and will connect them with the lunar year. 
But it is at once evident that, at least in 
Mediterranean lands, and probably every- 
where, it is the periodicity of plants and 
vegetation generally which depends on mois- 
ture, that is most striking. Plants die down 
in the heat of summer, trees shed their leaves 
in autumn, all Nature sleeps or dies in winter, 
and awakes in spring. 

Sometimes it is the dying down that attracts 
most attention. This is very clear in the rites 
of Adonis, which are, though he rises again, 
essentially rites of lamentation. The details 



SEASONAL RITES 55 

of the ritual show this clearly, and specially 
as already seen in the cult of Osiris. For 
the " gardens " of Adonis the women took 
baskets or pots filled with earth, and in them, 
as children sow cress now-a-days, they planted 
wheat, fennel, lettuce, and various kinds of 
flowers, which they watered and tended for 
eight days. In hot countries the seeds sprang 
up rapidly, but as the plants had no roots 
they withered quickly away. At the end of 
the eight da}- s they were carried out ^^dth the 
images of the dead Adonis and thrown with 
them into the sea or into springs. The 
"gardens" of Adonis became the type of 
transient loveliness and swift decay. 

" What waste would it be," says Plutarch, ^ 
" what inconceivable waste, for God to create 
man, had he not an immortal soul. He 
would be like the women who make little 
gardens, not less pleasant than the gardens 
of Adonis in earthen pots and pans; so 
would our souls blossom and flourish but 
for a day in a soft and tender body of flesh 
without any firm and solid root of life, and 
then be blasted and put out in a moment." 

i De Ser, Num, 17. 



50 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

Celebrated at midsummer as they were, 
and as the " gardens " were thrown into water, 
it is probable that the rites of Adonis may have 
been, at least in part, a rain-charm. In the long 
summer droughts of Palestine^and Babylonia 
the longing for rain must often have been 
intense enough to provoke expression, and 
we remember (p. 19) that the Sumerian 
Tammuz was originally Dumuzi-absu, " True 
Son of the Waters." Water is the first need 
for vegetation. Gardens of Adonis are still 
in use in the Madras Presidency.^ At the 
marriage of a Brahman " seeds of five or 
nine sorts are mixed and sown in earthen pots 
which are made specially for the purpose, and 
are filled with earth. Bride and bridegroom 
water the seeds both morning and evening for 
four days ; and on the fifth day the seedlings 
are thrown, like the real gardens of Adonis, 
into a tank or river." 

Seasonal festivals with one and the same 
intent — the promotion of fertility in plants, 
animals and man — may occur at almost any 
time of the year. At midsummer, as we have 
seen, we may have rain-charms; in autumn 
we shall have harvest festivals ; in late autumn 
^ Frazer, Adonis, "^Attis, and Osiris," p. 200. 



SEASONAL RITES 57 

and early winter among pastoral peoples we 
shall have festivals, like that of Martinmas, 
for the blessing and purification of flocks and 
herds when they come in from their summer 
pasture. In midwinter there will be a Christ- 
mas festival to promote and protect the sun's 
heat at the winter solstice. But in Southern 
Europe, to which we mainly owe our drama 
and our art, the festival most widely cele- 
brated, and that of which we know most, is 
the Spring Festival, and to that we must turn. 
The spring is to the Greek of to-day the 
*'anoixis," "the Opening," and it was in 
spring and with rites of spring that both Greek 
and Roman originally began their year. It was 
this spring festival that gave to the Greek 
their god Dionysos and in part his drama. 

In Cambridge on May Day two or three 
puzzled and weary little boys and girls are 
still to be sometimes seen dragging round 
a perambulator with a doll on it bedecked 
with ribbons and a flower or two. That is 
all that is left in most parts of England of 
the Queen of the May and Jack-in-the-Green, 
though here and there a maypole survives and 
is resuscitated by enthusiasts about folk- 



58 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

dances. But in the days of " Good Queen 
Bess " merry England, it would seem, was 
lustier. The Puritan Stubbs, in his Anatomie 
of Abuses,^ thus describes the festival : 

" They have twentie or fortie yoke of oxen, 
every oxe havyng a sweete nosegaie of flowers 
tyed on the tippe of his homes, and these oxen 
draw home this Maiepoole (this stinckying 
idoll rather), which is covered all over with 
flowers and hearbes, bound round aboute with 
stringes from the top to the bottome, and 
sometyme painted with variable colours, with 
two or three hundred men, women, and chil- 
dren, following it with great devotion. And 
thus beyng reared up, with handkerchiefes 
and flagges streaming on the toppe, they 
strewe the ground about, binde greene boughs 
^bout it, set up summer haules, bowers, and 
arbours hard by it. And then fall they to 
banquet and feast, to leap and daunce aboute 
it, as the heathen people did at the dedication 
of their idolles, whereof this is a perfect patterne 
or rather the thyng itself." 

The stern old Puritan was right, the may- 
pole was the perfect pattern of a heathen 
1 Quoted by i)r. Frazer, The Golden Bough;- p. 203. 



SEASONAL RITES 59 

" idoll, or rather the thyng itself." He 
would have exterminated it root and branch, 
but other and perhaps wiser divines took the 
maypole into the service of the Christian 
Church, and still ^ on May Day in Saffron 
Walden the spring song is heard with its 
Christian moral — 

" A branch of May we have brought you, 
And at your door it stands ; 
It is a sprout that is well budded out, 
The work of our Lord's hands." 

The maypole was of course at first no pole 
cut down and dried. The gist of it was that 
it should be a " sprout, well budded out." 
The object of carrying in the May was to 
bring the very spirit of life and greenery into 
the village. When this was forgotten, idleness 
or economy would prompt the villagers to use 
the same tree or branch year after year. In 
the villages of Upper Bavaria Dr. Frazer ^ tells 
us the maypole is renewed once every three, 
four, or five years. It is a fir-tree fetched from 
the forest, and amid all the wreaths, flags, and 
inscriptions with which it is bedecked, an 

1 E. K. Chambere, The Mediceval Stage, I, p. 169. 

2 The Goldm Bough;' p. 205. 



60 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

essential part is the bunch of dark green 
fohage left at the top, " as a memento that in 
it we have to do, not with a dead pole, but 
with a living tree from the greenwood." 

At the ritual of May Day not only was 
the fresh green bough or tree carried into the 
village, but with it came a girl or a boy, the 
Queen or King of the May. Sometimes 
the tree itself, as in Russia, is dressed up in 
woman's clothes; more often a real man or 
maid, covered with flowers and greenery, walks 
with the tree or carries the bough. Thus in 
Thuringia,^ as soon as the trees begin to be 
green in spring, the children assemble on a 
Sunday and go out into the woods, where 
they choose one of their playmates to be 
Little Leaf Man. They break branches from 
the trees and twine them about the child, till 
only his shoes are left peeping out. Two of 
the other children lead him for fear he should 
stumble. They take him singing and dancing 
from house to house, asking for gifts of food, 
such as eggs, cream, sausages, cakes. Finally, 
they sprinkle the Leaf Man with water and 
feast on the food. Such a Leaf Man is our 
English Jack-in-the-Green, a chimney-sweeper 
1 The Golden Bough,^ p. 213. 



SEASONAL RITES 61 

who, as late as 1892, was seen by Dr. Rouse 
walking about at Cheltenham encased in a 
wooden framework covered with greenery. 

The bringing in of the new leafage in the 
form of a tree or flowers is one, and perhaps 
the simplest, form of spring festival. It takes 
little notice of death and winter, uttering and 
emphasizing only the desire for the joy in life 
and spring. But in other and severer climates 
the emotion is fiercer and more complex ; it 
takes the form of a struggle or contest, what 
the Greeks called an agon. Thus on May Day 
in the Isle of Man a Queen of the May was 
chosen, and with her twenty maids of honour, 
together with a troop of young men for escort. 
But there was not only a Queen of the May, 
but a Queen of Winter, a man dressed as a 
woman, loaded with warm clothes and wearing 
a woollen hood and fur tippet. ^Yinter, too, 
had attendants like the Queen of the May. 
The two troops met and fought; and which- 
ever Queen was taken prisoner had to pay 
the expenses of the feast. 

In the Isle of Man the real gist of the 
ceremony is quite forgotten, it has become a 
mere play. But among the Esquimaux ^ 

^ Resumed from Dr. Frazer, Golden Boiigh,- II, p. 104. 



62 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

there is still carried on a similar rite, and its 
magical intent is clearly understood. In 
autumn, when the storms begin and the long 
and dismal x\rctic winter is at hand, the 
central Esquimaux divide themselves into two 
parties called the Ptarmigans and the Ducks. 
The ptarmigans are the people born in winter, 
the ducks those born in summer. They stretch 
out a long rope of sealskin. The ducks take 
hold of one end, the ptarmigans of the other, 
then comes a tug-of-war. If the ducks win 
there will be fine weather through the winter ; 
if the ptarmigans, bad. This autumn festival 
might, of course, with equal magical intent be 
performed in the spring, but probably autumn 
is chosen because, with the dread of the Arctic 
ice and snow upon them, the fear of winter is 
stronger than the hope of spring. 

The intense emotion towards the weather, 
which breaks out into these magical agones^ 
or " contests," is not very easy to realize. The 
weather to us now-a-days for the most part 
damps a day's pleasuring or raises the price 
of fruit and vegetables. But our main 
supplies come to us from other lands and 
other w^eathers, and we find it hard to think 



SEASONAL RITES 63 

ourselves back into the state when a bad 
harvest meant starvation. The intensely 
practical attitude of man towards the seasons, 
the way that many of these magical dramatic 
ceremonies rose straight out of the emotion 
towards the food-supply, would perhaps never 
have been fully realized but for the study of 
the food-producing ceremonies of the Central 
Australians. 

The Central Australian spring is not the 
shift from winter to summer, from cold to 
heat, but from a long, arid, and barren season 
to a season short and often irregular in 
recurrence of torrential rain and sudden 
fertility. The dry steppes of Central Australia 
are the scene of a marvellous transformation. 
In the dry season all is hot and desolate, the 
ground has only patches of wiry scrub, with 
an occasional parched acacia tree, all is stones 
and sand ; there is no sign of animal life save 
for the thousand ant-hills. Then suddenly the 
rainy season sets in. Torrents fill the rivers,, 
and the sandy plain is a sheet of water. 
Almost as suddenly the rain ceases, the 
streams dry up, sucked in by the thirsty ground, 
and as though literally by magic a luxuriant 
vegetation bursts forth, the desert blossoms 



64 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

as a rose. Insects, lizards, frogs, birds, chirp, 
frisk and chatter. No plant or animal can 
live unless it live quickly. The struggle for 
existence is keen and short. 

It seems as though the change came and 
life was born by magic, and the primitive 
Australian takes care that magic should not 
be wanting, and magic of the most instructive 
kind. As soon as the season of fertility 
approaches he begins his rites with the avowed 
object of making and multiplying the plants, 
and chiefly the animals, by which he lives; 
he paints the figure of the emu on the sand 
with vermilion drawn from his own blood; 
he puts on emu feathers and gazes about him 
vacantly in stupid fashion like an emu bird ; he 
makes a structure of boughs like the chrysalis 
of a Witchetty grub — his favourite food, and 
drags his body through it in pantomime, 
gliding and shuffling to promote its birth. 
Here, difficult and intricate though the cere- 
monies are, and uncertain in meaning as many 
of the details must probably always remain, 
the main emotional gist is clear. It is not 
that the Australian wonders at and admires 
the miracle of his spring, the bursting of the 
flowers and the singing of birds; it is not 



SEASONAL RITES 65 

that his heart goes out in gratitude to an 
All-Father who is the Giver of all good things ; 
it is that, obedient to the push of life within 
him, his impulse is towards food. He must 
eat that he and his tribe may grow and 
multiply. It is this, his will to live, that he 
litters and represents. 

The savage utters his will to live, his intense 
desire for food; but it should be noted, it is 
desire and will and longing, not certainty and 
satisfaction that he utters. In this respect 
it is interesting to note that his rites and 
ceremonies, when periodic, are of fairly long 
periods. Winter and summer are not the 
only natural periodic cycles; there is the 
cycle of day and night, and yet among primi- 
tive peoples but little ritual centres round 
day and night. The reason is simple. The 
cycle of day and night is so short, it recurs 
so frequently, that man naturally counted 
upon it and had no cause to be anxious. The 
emotional tension necessary to ritual was 
absent. A few peoples, e. g. the Egyptians, 
have practised daily incantations to bring 
back the sun. Probably they had at first 
felt a real tension of anxiety, and then — being 



66 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

a people hidebound by custom — had gone 
on from mere conservatism. Where the sun 
returns at a longer interval, and is even, 
as among the Esquimaux, hidden for the long 
space of six months, ritual inevitably arises. 
They play at cat's-cradle to catch the ball of 
the sun lest it should sink and be lost for ever. 
Round the moon, whose cycle is long, but 
not too long, ritual very early centred, but 
probably only when its supposed influence on 
vegetation was first surmised. The moon, as it 
were, practises magic herself ; she waxes and 
wanes, and with her, man thinks, all the vege- 
table kingdom waxes and wanes too, all but 
the lawless onion. The moon, Plutarch ^ tells 
us, is fertile in its light and contains moisture, it 
is kindly to the young of animals and to the 
new shoots of plants. Even Bacon ^ held that 
observations of the moon with a view to plant- 
ing and sowing and the grafting of trees were 
" not altogether frivolous." It cannot too 
often be remembered that primitive man has 
but little, if any, interest in sun and moon 
and heavenly bodies for their inherent beauty 
or wonder; he cares for them, he holds them 

1 De Is. et Os., p. 367. 

2 De Aug. ScienU, III, 4. 



SEASONAL RITES 67 

sacred, he performs rites in relation to them 
mainly when he notes that they bring the 
seasons, and he cares for the seasons mainly 
because they bring him food. A season is 
to him as a Hora was at first to the Greeks, 
the fruits of a season, what our farmers would 
call " a good year.'' 

The sun, then, had no ritual till it was seen 
that he led in the seasons; but long before 
that was known, it was seen that the seasons 
were annual, that they w^ent round in a ring ; 
and because that annual ring was long in 
revolving, great was man's hope and fear in 
the winter, great his relief and joy in the 
spring. It was literally a matter of death 
and life, and it was as death and life that he 
sometimes represented it, as we have seen in 
the figures of Adonis and Osiris. 

Adonis and Osiris have their modern 
parallels, who leave us in no doubt as to the 
meaning of their figures. Thus on the 1st 
of March in Thiiringen a ceremony is per- 
formed called " Driving out the Death." 
The young people make up a figure of straw, 
dress it in old clothes, carry it out and throw 
it into the river. Then they come back, tell 



68 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

the good news to the village, and are given 
eggs and food as a reward. In Bohemia the 
children carry out a straw puppet and burn 
it. While they are burning it they sing — 

" Now carry we Death out of the village, 
The new Summer into the village, 
Welcome, dear Summer, 
Green little corn." 

In other parts of Bohemia the song varies ; 
it is not Summer that comes back but Life. 

" We have carried away Death, 
And brought back Life." 

In both these cases it is interesting to 
note that though Death is dramatically 
carried out, the coming back of Life is only 
announced, not enacted. 

Often, and it would seem quite naturally, 
the puppet representing Death or Winter is 
reviled and roughly handled, or pelted with 
stones, and treated in some way as a sort of 
scapegoat. But in not a few cases, and these 
are of special interest, it seems to be the seat 
of a sort of magical potency which can be and 
is transferred to the figure of Summer or 
Life, thus cavising, as it were, a sort of Resur- 



SEASONAL RITES 69 

rection. In Lusatia the women only cany 
out the Death. They are dressed in black 
themselves as mourners, but the puppet of 
straw which they dress up as the Death wears 
a white shirt. They carry it to the \dllage 
boundary, followed by boys thromng stones, 
and there tear it to pieces. Then they cut 
down a tree and dress it in the white shirt 
of the Death and carry it home singing. 

So at the Feast of the Ascension in Tran- 
sylvania. After morning service the girls of 
the village dress up the Death; they tie a 
threshed-out sheaf of corn into a rough copy 
of a head and body, and stick a broomstick 
through the body for arms. Then they 
dress the figure up in the ordinary holiday 
clothes of a peasant girl — a red hood, silver 
brooches, and ribbons galore. They put the 
Death at an open window that all the people 
when they go to vespers may see it. Vespers 
over, two girls take the Death by the arms 
and walk in front ; the rest follow. They sing 
an ordinary church hymn. Having wound 
through the village they go to another house, 
shut out the boys, strip the Death of its clothes, 
and throw the straw body out of the window 
to the boys, who fling it into a river. Then 



70 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

one of the girls is dressed in the Death's 
discarded clothes, and the procession again 
winds through the village. The same hymn 
is sung. Thus it is clear that the girl is a 
sort of resuscitated Death. This resurrection 
aspect, this passing of the old into the new, 
will be seen to be of great ritual importance 
when we come to Dionysos and the Dithyramb. 
These ceremonies of Death and Life are 
more complex than the simple carrying in 
of green boughs or even the dancing round 
maypoles. When we have these figures, 
these " impersonations," we are getting away 
from the merely emotional dance, from the 
domain of simple psychological motor dis- 
charge to something that is very like rude 
art, at all events to personification. On this 
question of personification, in which so much 
of art and religion has its roots, it is all- 
important to be clear. 

In discussions on such primitive rites as 
" Carrying out the Death," " Bringing in 
Summer," we are often told that the puppet 
of the girl is carried round, buried, burnt; 
brought back, because it " personifies the 
Spirit of Vegetation," or it '' embodies the 



SEASONAL RITES 71 

Spirit of Summer." The Spirit of Vegeta- 
tion is " incarnate in the puppet." We are 
led, by this way of speaking, to suppose that 
the savage or the villager first forms an idea 
or conception of a Spirit of Vegetation and 
then later " embodies " it. We naturally 
wonder that he should perform a mental act 
so high and difficult as abstraction. 

A very little consideration shows that he 
performs at first no abstraction at all ; abstrac- 
tion is foreign to his mental habit. He begins 
with a vague excited dance to relieve his 
emotion. That dance has, probably almost 
from the first, a leader ; the dancers choose an 
actual 'person^ and he is the root and ground 
of 'personification. There is nothing mys- 
terious about the process; the leader does 
not " embody " a previously conceived idea, 
rather he begets it. From his personality 
springs the personification. The abstract 
idea arises from the only thing it possibly can 
arise from, the concrete fact. Without per- 
ception there is no conception. We noted in 
speaking of dances (p. 43) how the dance got 
generalized; how from many commemora- 
tions of actual hunts and battles there arose 
the hunt dance and the war dance. So, from 



72 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

many actual living personal May Queens and 
Deaths, from many actual men and women 
decked with leaves, or trees dressed up as 
men and women, arises the Tree Spirit, the 
Vegetation Spirit, the Death. 

At the back, then, of the fact of personifica- 
tion lies the fact that the emotion is felt 
collectively, the rite is performed by a band 
or chorus who dance together with a common 
leader. Round that leader the emotion cen- 
tres. When there is an act of Carrying-out 
or Bringing-in he either is himself the puppet 
or he carries it. Emotion is of the whole 
band; drama doing tends to focus on the 
leader. This leader, this focus, is then 
remembered, thought of, imaged ; from being 
perceived year by year, he is finally conceived ; 
but his basis is always in actual fact of which 
he is but the reflection. 

Had there been no periodic festivals, per- 
sonification might long have halted. But 
it is easy to see that a recurrent perception 
helps to form a permanent abstract concep- 
tion. The different actual recurrent May 
Kings and " Deaths," because they recur, 
get a sort of permanent life of their own and 
become beings apart. In this way a concep- 



SEASONAL RITES 73 

tion, a kind oi daimoii, or spirit, is fashioned, 
who dies and Hves again in a perpetual cycle. 
The periodic festival begets a kind of not 
immortal, but perennial, god. 

Yet the faculty of conception is but dim 
and feeble in the mind even of the peasant 
to-day ; his function is to perceive the actual 
fact year by year, and to feel about it. Per- 
haps a simple instance best makes this clear. 
The Greek Church does not gladly suffer 
images in the round, though she delights in 
picture-images, eikons. But at her great spring 
festival of Easter she makes, in the remote 
\allages, concession to a strong, jDcrhaps 
imperative, popular need; she allows an 
image, an actual idol, of the dead Christ to 
be laid in the tomb that it may rise again. 
A traveller in Euboea ^ during Holy Week 
had been struck by the genuine grief sho^Mi 
at the Good Friday services. On Easter Eve 
there was the same general gloom and de- 
spondency, and he asked an old woman why 
it was. She answered : "Of course I am 
anxious ; for if Christ does not rise to-morrow, 
we shall have no corn this year." 

^ J. C. Lawson, Modern Greek Folk-lore and Ancient 
Religion, p. 573. 



74 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

The old woman's state of mind is fairly 
clear. Her emotion is the old emotion, not 
sorrow for the Christ the Son of Mary, but 
fear, imminent fear for the failure of food. 
The Christ again is not the historical Christ 
of Judaea, still less the incarnation of the 
Godhead proceeding from the Father; he is 
the actual figure fashioned by his village 
chorus and laid by the priests, the leaders of 
that chorus, in the local sepulchre. 

So far, then, we have seen that the vague 
emotional dance tends to become a periodic 
rite, performed at regular intervals. The 
periodic rite may occur at any date of im- 
portance to the food-supply of the community, 
in summer, in winter, at the coming of the 
annual rains, or the regular rising of a river. 
Among Mediterranean peoples, both in ancient 
days and at the present time, the Spring 
Festival arrests attention. Having learnt the 
general characteristics of this Spring Festival, 
we have now to turn to one particular case, 
the Spring Festival of the Greeks. This is all- 
important to us because, as will be seen, from 
the ritual of this and kindred festivals arose, we 
believe, a great form of Art, the Greek drama. 



CHAPTER IV 

THE SPRING FESTIVAL IN GREECE 

The tragedies of ^schylus, Sophocles, and 
Euripides were performed at Athens at a 
festival known as the Great Dionysia. This 
took place early in April, so that the time 
itself makes us suspect that its ceremonies 
were connected with the spring. But we 
have more certain evidence. Aristotle, in his 
treatise on the Art of Poetry, raises the 
question of the origin of the drama. He was 
not specially interested in primitive ritual; 
beast dances and spring mummeries might 
even have seemed to him mere savagery, the 
lowest form of "imitation;" but he divined 
that a structure so complex as Greek tragedy 
must have arisen out of a simpler form; he 
saw, or felt, in fact, that art had in some way 
risen out of ritual, and he has left us a 
memorable statement. 

In describing the " Carrying-out of Summer" 
we saw that the element of real drama, real 
75 



76 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

impersonation, began with the leaders of the 
band, with the Queen of the May, and with the 
''Death " or the ''Winter." Great is our dehght 
when we find that for Greek drama Aristotle ^ 
divined a like beginning. He says : 

" Tragedy — as also Comedy — was at first 
mere improvisation — the one (tragedy) origin- 
ated with the leaders of the Dithyramb " 

The further question faces us : What was 
the Dithyramb ? We shall find to our joy that 
this obscure-sounding Dithyramb, though be- 
fore Aristotle's time it had taken literary form, 
was in origin a festival closely akin to those 
we have just been discussing. The Dithy- 
ramb was, to begin with, a spring ritual ; and 
when Aristotle tells us tragedy arose out of the 
Dithyramb, he gives us, though perhaps half 
unconsciously, a clear instance of a splendid 
art that arose from the simplest of rites; 
he plants our theory of the connection of art 
with ritual firmly with its feet on historical 
ground. 

When we use the word " dithyrambic " we 
certainly do not ordinarily think of spring. 
1 Poetics, IV, 12. 



SPRING FESTIVAL IN GREECE 77 

We say a style is " dithyrambic " when it is 
unmeasured, too ornate, impassioned, flowery. 
The Greeks themselves had forgotten that 
the word Dithyramb meant a leaping, in- 
spired dance. But they had not forgotten 
on what occasion that dance was danced. 
Pindar wrote a Dithyramb for the Dionysiac 
festival at Athens, and his song is full of 
springtime and flowers. He bids all the gods 
come to Athens to dance flower- crowned. 

"Look upon the dance. Olympians; send 
us the grace of Victory, ye gods who come to 
the heart of our city, where many feet are 
treading and incense steams : in sacred Athens 
come to the holy centre-stone. Take your 
portion of garlands pansy-twined, libations 
poured from the culling of spring. . . . 

" Come hither to the god with ivy bound. 
Bromios we mortals name Him, and Him of 
the mighty Voice. . . . The clear signs of his 
Fulfilment are not hidden, whensoever the 
chamber of the purple-robed Hours is opened, 
and nectarous flowers lead in the fragrant 
spring. Then, then, are flung over the 
immortal Earth, lovely petals of pansies, and 
roses are amid our hair; and voices of song 



78 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

are loud among the pipes, the dancing-floors 
are loud with the calling of crowned Semele." 

Bromios, " He of the loud cry," is a title of 
Dionysos. Semele is his mother, the Earth; 
we keep her name in Nova Zembla, '*New 
Earth." The song might have been sung at 
a " Carry ing-in of Summer." The Horae, 
the Seasons, a chorus of maidens, lead in the 
figure of Spring, the Queen of the May, and 
they call to Mother Earth to wake, to rise up 
from the earth, flower-crowned. 

You may hring hack the life of the Spring 
in the form of a tree or a maiden, or you may 
summon her to rise from the sleeping Earth. 
In Greek mythology we are most familiar with 
the Rising-up form. Persephone, the daughter 
of Demeter, is carried below the Earth, and 
rises up again year by year. On Greek vase- 
paintings ^ the scene occurs again and again. 
A mound of earth is represented, sometimes 
surmounted by a tree; out of the mound a 
woman's figure rises ; and all about the mound 
are figures of dancing daemons waiting to 
welcome her. 

1 See my Themis, p. 419. (1912.) 



SPRING FESTIVAL IN GREECE 79 

All this is not mere late poetry and art. 
It is the primitive art and poetry that comes 
straight out of ritual, out of actual "things 
done," dromena. In the \illage of Megara, 
near Athens, the very place where to-day on 
Easter Tuesday the hills are covered -with 
throngs of dancing men, and specially women, 
Pausanias ^ saw near the City Hearth a rock 
called " Anaklethra, ' Place of CalHng-up,' 
because, if any one will believe it, when she 
was wandering in search of her daughter, 
Demeter called her up there " ; and he adds : 
" The women to this day perform rites 
analogous to the story told." 

These rites of " Calling up " must have been 
spring rites, in which, in some pantomimic 
dance, the uprising of the Earth Spirit was 
enacted. 

Another festival of Uprising is perhaps more 
primitive and instructive, because it is near 
akin to the " Carrying out of Winter," and 
also because it shows clearly the close con- 
nection of these rites with the food-supply. 
Plutarch ^ tells us of a festival held every 
nine years at Delphi. It was called from the 
name of the puppet used Charila, a word 
1 I, 43. 2. 2 Quaest. Grcec. XIL 



80 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

which originally meant Spring-Maiden, and 
is connected with the Russian word yaro, 
** Spring," and is also akin to the Greek 
Charis, " grace," in the sense of increase, 
" Give us all grace,^' The rites of Charila, 
the Gracious One, the Spring-Maiden, were 
as follows : 

" The king presided and made a distribution 
in public of grain and pulse to all, both citizens 
and strangers. And the child-image of Charila 
is brought in. When they had all received 
their share, the king struck the image with 
his sandal, the leader of the Thyiades lifted 
the image and took it away to a precipitous 
place, and there tied a rope round the neck 
of the image and buried it." 

Mr. Calderon has shown that very similar 
rites go on to-day in Bulgaria in honour of 
YarilOy the Spring God. 

The image is beaten, insulted, let down into 
some cleft or cave. It is clearly a " Carrying 
out the Death," though we do not know the 
exact date at which it was celebrated. It had 
its sequel in another festival at Delphi called 
Herois, or the " Heroine." Plutarch ^ says it 
1 Op. cit. 



SPRING FESTIVAL IN GREECE 81 

was too mystical and secret to describe, but 
he lets us know the main gist. 

" Most of the ceremonies of the Herois have 
a mystical reason which is known to the 
Thyiades, but from the rites that are done 
in public, one may conjecture it to be a 
' Bringing up of Semele.' " 

Some one or something, a real woman, 
or more likely the buried puppet Charila, 
the Spring-Maiden, was brought up from the 
ground to enact and magically induce the 
coming of Spring. 

These ceremonies of beating, driving out, 
burying, have all with the Greeks, as with 
the savage and the modem peasant, but 
one real object : to get rid of the season that 
is bad for food, to bring in and re\'ive the new 
supply. This comes out very clearly in a 
ceremony that went on down to Plutarch's 
time, and he tells us ^ it was " ancestral." 
It was called " the Driving out of Ox -hunger." 
By Ox-hunger was meant any great ravenous 
hunger, and the very intensity and monstrosity 
of the word takes us back to days when 
1 Qucest. Symp., 693 f . 



82 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

famine was a grim reality. When Plutarch 
was archon he had, as chief official, to per- 
form the ceremony at the Prytaneion, or 
Common Hearth. A slave was taken, beaten 
with rods of a magical plant, and driven out 
of doors to the words : " Out with Ox-hunger ! 
In with Wealth and Health ! " Here we see 
the actual sensation, or emotion, of ravenous 
hunger gets a name, and thereby a person- 
ality, though a less completely abstracted 
one than Death or Summer. We do not know 
that the ceremony of Driving out Ox-hunger 
was performed in the spring, it is only in- 
stanced here because, more plainly even than 
the Charila, when the king distributes pulse and 
peas, it shows the relation of ancient mimic 
ritual to food-supply. 

If we keep clearly in mind the object rather 
than the exact date of the Spring Song we shall 
avoid many difficulties. A Dithyramb was 
sung at Delphi through the winter months, 
which at first seems odd. But we must re- 
member that among agricultural peoples the 
performance of magical ceremonies to promote 
fertility and the food supply may begin at any 
moment after the earth is ploughed and the 
seed sown. The sowing of the seed is its death 



SPRING FESTIVAL IN GREECE 83 

and burial ; " that which thou sowest is not 
quickened except it die." When the death 
and burial are once accomplished the hope of 
resurrection and new birth begins, and with the 
hope the magical ceremonies that may help 
to fulfil that hope. The Sun is new-born in 
midwinter, at the solstice, and our "New" 
year follows, yet it is in the spring that, to this 
day, we keep our great resurrection festival. 

We return to our argument, holding 
steadily in our minds this connection. The 
Dithyramb is a Spring Song at a Spring 
Festival, and the importance of the Spring 
Festival is that it magically promotes the 
food-supply. 

Do we know any more about the Dithy- 
ramb? Happily yes, and the next point is 
as curious as significant. 

Pindar, in one of his Odes, asks a strange 
question : 

" Whence did appear the Graces of Dionysos, 
With the Bull-driving Dithyramb ? " 

Scholars have broken their own heads and 
one another's to find a meaning and an 
answer to the odd query. It is only quite 



84 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

lately that they have come at all to see that 
the Dithyramb was a Spring Song, a primitive 
rite. Formerly it was considered to be a 
rather elaborate form of lyric poetry invented 
comparatively late. But, even allowing it 
is the Spring Song, are we much further ? 
Why should the Dithyramb be bull-driving ? 
How can driving a Bull help the spring to 
come ? And, above all, what are the " slender- 
ankled" Graces doing, helping to drive the 
great unwieldy Bull ? 

The difficulty about the Graces, or Charites, 
as the Greeks called them., is soon settled. 
They are the Seasons, or "Hours," and the 
chief Season, or Hour, was Spring herself. 
They are called Charites, or Graces, because 
they are, in the words of the Collect, the 
" Givers of all grace," that is, of all increase 
physical and spiritual. But why do they want 
to come driving in a Bull ? It is easy to see 
why the Givers of all grace lead the Dithy- 
ramb, the Spring Song; their coming, with 
their " fruits in due season " is the very gist 
of the Dithyramb ; but why is the Dithyramb 
" bull-driving "? Is this a mere " poetical " 
epithet ? If it is, it is not particularly 
poetical. 



SPRING FESTIVAL IN GREECE 85 

But Pindar is not, we now know, merely 
being " poetical," which amounts, according to 
some scholars, to meaning anything or nothing. 
He is describing, alluding to, an actual rite or 
dromenon in which a Bull is summoned and 
driven to come in spring. About that we 
must be clear. Plutarch, the first anthro- 
pologist, wrote a little treatise called Greek 
Questions, in which he tells us all the strange 
out-of-the-way rites and customs he saw in 
Greece, and then asks himself what they 
meant. In his 36th Question he asks : " Why 
do the women of Elis summon Dionysos in 
their hymns to be present ^ith them with 
his bull-foot? " And then, by a piece of 
luck that almost makes one's heart stand 
still, he gives us the very words of the little 
ritual hymn the women sang, our earliest 
'' Bull-driving " Spring Song : 

" In Spring-time,^ O Dionysos, 
To thy holy temple come; 
To Elis with thy Graces, 

Rushing with thy bull-foot, come, 
Noble Bull, Noble Bull." 

^ The words " in Spring-time '^ depend on an emenda- 
tion to me convincing. See my Themis, p. 205, note 1, 



86 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

It is a strange primitive picture — the holy 
women standing in springtime in front of 
the temple, summoning the Bull; and the 
Bull, garlanded and filleted, rushing to- 
wards them, driven by the Graces, probably 
three real women, three Queens of the May, 
wreathed and flower-bedecked. But what 
does it mean? 

Plutarch tries to answer his own question, 
and half, in a dim, confused fashion, succeeds. 
"Is it," he suggests, " that some entitle the 
god as ' Born of a Bull ' and as a ' Bull ' 
himself ? ... or is it that many hold the god 
is the beginner of sowing and ploughing? " 
We have seen how a kind of daimon, or spirit, 
of Winter or Summer arose from an actual 
tree or maid or man disguised year by year 
as a tree. Did the god Dionysos take his 
rise in like fashion from the driving and 
summoning year by year of some holy Bull? 

First, we must notice that it was not only 
at Elis that a holy Bull appears at the Spring 
Festival. Plutarch asks another instructive 
Question : ^ " Who among the Delphians is 
the Sanctifier ? " And we find to our amaze- 
ment that the sanctifier is a Bull. A Bull 
1 IX. 



SPRING FESTIVAL IN GREECE 87 

who not only is holy himself, but is so holy 
that he has power to make others holy, he 
is the Sanctifier ; and, most important for us, 
he sanctifies by his death in the month 
Bysios, the month that fell, Plutarch tells 
us, '' at the beginning of spring, the time of 
the blossoming of many plants." 

We do not hear that the " Sanctifier " at 
Delphi was " driven," but in all probability 
he was led from house to house, that every 
one might partake in the sanctity that simply 
exuded from him. At Magnesia,^ a city of 
Asia Minor, we have more particulars. There, 
at the annual fair year by year the stewards 
of the city bought a Bull, " the finest that 
could be got," and at the new moon of the 
month at the beginning of seedtime they 
dedicated it, for the city's welfare. The Bull's 
sanctified life began with the opening of the 
agricultural year, whether with the spring or 
the autumn ploughing we do not know. The 
dedication of the Bull was a high solemnity. 
He was led in procession, at the head of 
which went the chief priest and priestess of 
the city. With them went a herald and the 
sacrificer, and two bands of youths and 
^ See my Themis, p. 151. 



88 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

maidens. So holy was the Bull that nothing 
unlucky might come near him; the youths 
and maidens must have both their parents 
alive, they must not have been under the 
taboo, the infection, of death. The herald 
pronounced aloud a prayer for " the safety 
of the city and the land, and the citizens, 
and the women and children, for peace and 
wealth, and for the bringing forth of grain 
and of all the other fruits, and of cattle." 
All this longing for fertility, for food and 
children, focuses round the holy Bull, whose 
holiness is his strength and fruitfulness. 

The Bull thus solemnly set apart, charged 
as it were with the luck of the whole people, 
is fed at the public cost. The official charged 
with his keep has to drive him into the 
market-place, and " it is good for those corn- 
merchants who give the Bull grain as a gift," 
good for them because they are feeding, 
nurturing, the luck of the State, which is 
their own luck. So through autumn and 
winter the Bull lives on, but early in April 
the end comes. Again a great procession is 
led forth, the senate and the priests walk in 
it, and with them come representatives of 
each class of the State — children and young 



SPRING FESTIVAL IN GREECE 89 

boys, and youths just come to manhood, 
ephebol, as the Greeks called them. The Bull 
is sacrificed, and why ? Why must a thing 
so holy die ? Why not live out the term of 
his life ? He dies because he is so holy, that 
he may give his holiness, his strength, his 
life, just at the moment it is holiest, to his 
people. 

" When they shall have sacrificed the Bull, 
let them divide it up among those who took 
part in the procession." 

The mandate is clear. The procession 
included representatives of the whole State. 
The holy flesh is not offered to a god, it is 
eaten — to every man his portion — by each 
and every citizen, that he may get his share 
of the strength of the Bull, of the luck of the 
State. 

Now at Magnesia, after the holy civic 
communion, the meal shared, we hear no 
more. Next year a fresh Bull will be chosen, 
and the cycle begin again. But at Athens 
at the annual " Ox-murder," the Bouyhonia, 
as it was called, the scene did not so close. 
The ox was slain with all solemnity, and all 



90 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

those present partook of the flesh, and then 
— the hide was stuffed with straw and sewed 
up, and next the stuffed animal was set on 
its feet and yoked to a plough as though it 
were ploughing. The Death is followed by 
a Resurrection. Now this is all-important. 
We are so accustomed to think of sacrifice as 
the death, the giving up, the renouncing of 
something. But sacrifice does not mean 
" death " at all. It means making holy, 
sanctifying; and holiness was to primitive 
man just special strength and life. What 
they wanted from the Bull was just that 
special life and strength which all the year 
long they had put into him, and nourished 
and fostered. That life was in his blood. 
They could not eat that flesh nor drink that 
blood unless they killed him. So he must die. 
But it was not to give him up to the gods that 
they killed him, not to " sacrifice " him in our 
sense, but to have him, keep him, eat him, live 
by him and through him, by his grace. 

And so this killing of the sacred beast was 
always a terrible thing, a thing they fain would 
have shirked. They fled away after the deed, 
not looking backwards; they publicly tried 
and condemned the axe that struck the blow. 



SPRING FESTIVAL IN GREECE 91 

But their best hope, their strongest desire, 
was that he had not, could not, really have 
died. So this intense desire uttered itself in 
the dromenon of his resurrection. If he did 
not rise again, how could they plough and 
sow again next year ? He must live again, he 
should, he did. 

The Athenians were a little ashamed of 
their " Ox-murder," with its grotesque panto- 
mime of the stuffed, resurrected beast. Just 
so some of us now-a-days are getting a little 
shy of deliberately cursing our neighbours 
on Ash Wednesday. They probably did not 
feel very keenly about their food-supply, they 
thought their daily dinner was secure. Any- 
hov>- the emotion that had issued in the panto- 
mime was dead, though from sheer habit the 
pantomime went on. Probably some of the 
less educated among them thought there 
" might be something in it," and anyhow it 
was " as well to be on the safe side." The 
queer ceremony had got associated with the 
worship of Olympian Zeus, and with him you 
must reckon. Then perhaps your brother- 
in-law was the Ox-striker, and anyhow it was 
desirable that the women should go ; some of 
the well-born girls had to act as water-carriers. 



92 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

The Ox-murder was obsolete at Athens, but 
the spirit of the rite is aHve to-day among 
the Ainos in the remote island of Saghalien. 
Among the Ainos the Bear is what psycholo- 
gists rather oddly call the main " food focus," 
the chief " value centre." And well he may 
be. Bear's flesh is the Ainos' staple food ; they 
eat it both fresh and salted; bearskins are 
their principal clothing; part of their taxes 
are paid in bear's fat. The Aino men spend 
the autumn, winter and spring in hunting the 
Bear. Yet we are told the Ainos " worship 
the Bear " ; they apply to it the name Kamui, 
which has been translated god; but it is a 
word applied to all strangers, and so only 
means what catches attention, and hence is for- 
midable. In the religion of the Ainos " the 
Bear plays a chief part," says one writer. The 
Bear "receives idolatrous veneration," says 
another. They " worship it after their fashion,'* 
says a third. Have we another case of " the 
heathen in his blindness " ? Only here he 
" bows down " not to " gods of wood and 
stone," but to a live thing, uncouth, shambling 
but gracious — a Bear. 

Instead of theorizing as to what the Aino 
thinks and imagines, let us observe his doings. 



SPRING FESTIVAL IN GREECE 93 

his dromena, his rites; and most of all his 
great spring and autumn rite, the dromenon 
of the Bear. We shall find that, detail for 
detail, it strangely resembles the Greek dro- 
menon of the Bull. 

As winter draws to a close among the 
Ainos, a young Bear is trapped and brought 
into the village. At first an Aino woman 
suckles him at her breast, then later he is 
fed on his favourite food, fish — his tastes are 
semi-polar. When he is at his full strength, 
that is, when he threatens to break the cage 
in which he lives, the feast is held. This is 
usually in September, or October, that is 
when the season of bear-hunting begins. 

Before the feast begins the x\inos apologize 
profusely, saying that they have been good 
to the Bear, they can feed him no longer, they 
must kill him. Then the man who gives the 
Bear-feast invites his relations and friends, 
and if the conununity be small nearly the 
whole village attends. On the occasion 
described by Dr. Scheube about thirty Ainos 
were present, men, women, and children, all 
dressed in their best clothes. The woman of 
the house who had suckled the Bear sat by 
herself, sad and silent, only now and then she 



94 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

burst into helpless tears. The ceremony 
began with libations made to the fire-god and 
to the house-god set up in a corner of the 
house. Next the master and some of the 
guests left the hut and offered libations in 
front of the Bear's cage. A few drops were 
presented to him in a saucer, which he 
promptly upset. Then the women and girls 
danced round the cage, rising and hopping 
on their toes, and as they danced they clapped 
their hands and chanted a monotonous chant. 
The mother and some of the old women cried 
as they danced and stretched out their arms 
to the Bear, calling him loving names. The 
young women who had nursed no Bears 
laughed, after the manner of the young. The 
Bear began to get upset, and rushed round 
his cage, howling lamentably. 

Next came a ceremony of special significance 
which is never omitted at the sacrifice of a 
Bear. Libations were offered to the inabos, 
sacred wands which stand outside the Aino 
hut. These wands are about two feet high 
and are whittled at the top into spiral shavings. 
Five new wands with bamboo leaves attached to 
them are set up for the festival; the leaves 
according to the Ainos mean that the Bear 



SPRING FESTIVAL IN GREECE 95 

may come to life again. These wands are 
specially interesting. The chief focus of 
attention is of course the Bear, because his 
flesh is for the Aino his staple food. But 
vegetation is not quite forgotten. The animal 
life of the Bear and the vegetable life of the 
bamboo-leaves are thought of together. 

Then comes the actual sacrifice. The Bear 
is led out of his cage, a rope is thrown round 
his neck, and he is perambulated round the 
neighbourhood of the hut. We do not hear 
that among the Ainos he goes in procession 
round the village, but among the Gilyaks, not 
far away in Eastern Siberia, the Bear is led 
about the villages, and it is held to be specially 
important that he should be dragged down 
to the river, for this will ensure the village 
a plentiful supply of fish. He is then, among 
the Gilyaks, taken to each hut in the village, 
and fish, brandy, and other delicacies are 
offered to him. Some of the people prostrate 
themselves in front of him and his coming into 
a house brings a blessing, and if he snuffs 
at the food, that brings a blessing too. 

To return to the Aino Bear. While he is 
being led about the hut the men, headed by a 
chief, shoot at the Bear with arrows tipped 



96 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

with buttons. But the object of the shooting 
is not to kill, only apparently to irritate him. 
He is killed at last without shedding of his 
sacred blood, and we hope without much pain. 
He is taken in front of the sacred wands, a 
stick placed in his mouth, and nine men 
press his neck against a beam ; he dies without 
a sound. Meantime the women and girls, 
who stand behind the men, dance, lament, and 
beat the men who are killing their Bear. 
The body of the dead Bear is then laid on a 
mat before the sacred wands. A sword and 
quiver, taken from the wands, are hung about 
the Bear. If it is a She-Bear it is also be- 
decked with a necklace and rings. Food and 
drink, millet broth and millet cakes are 
offered to it. It is decked as an Aino, it is 
fed as an Aino. It is clear that the Bear is 
in some sense a human Bear, an Aino. The 
men sit down on mats in front of the Bear and 
offer libations, and themselves drink deep. 

Now that the death is fairly over the 
mourning ends, and all is feasting and merri- 
ment. Even the old women lament no more. 
Cakes of millet are scrambled for. The bear 
is skinned and disembowelled, the trunk is 
severed from the head, to which the skin is 



SPRING FESTIVAL IN GREECE 97 

left hanging. The blood, which might not 
be shed before, is now carefully collected in 
cups and eagerly drunk by the men, for the 
blood is the life. The liver is cut up and eaten 
raw. The flesh and the rest of the vitals are 
kept for the day next but one, when it is 
divided among all persons present at the 
feast. It is what the Greeks call a dais, a 
meal divided or distributed. While the Bear 
is being dismembered the girls dance, in 
front of the sacred wands, and the old women 
again lament. The Bear's brain is extracted 
from his head and eaten, and the skull, severed 
from the skin, is hung on a pole near the 
sacred wands. Thus it w^ould seem the life 
and strength of the bear is brought near to 
the living growth of the leaves. The stick 
with which the Bear was gagged is also hung 
on the pole, and with it the sword and quiver 
he had w^orn after his death. The whole 
congregation, men and women, dance about 
this strange maypole, and a great drinking 
bout, in which all men and women alike 
join, ends the feast. 

The rite varies as to detail in different 
places. Among the Gilyaks the Bear is 
dressed after death in full Gilyak costume and 

G 



98 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

seated on a bench of honour. In one part 
the bones and skull are carried out by the 
oldest people to a place in the forest not far 
from the village. There all the bones except 
the skull are buried. After that a young tree 
is felled a few inches above the ground, its 
stump is cleft, and the skull wedged into the 
cleft. When the grass grows over the spot 
the skull disappears and there is an end of the 
Bear. Sometimes the Bear's fiesh is eaten 
in special vessels prepared for this festival 
and only used at it. These vessels, which 
include bowls, platters, spoons, are elabor- 
ately carved with figures of bears and other 
devices. 

Through all varieties in detail the main 
intent is the same, and it is identical with that 
of the rite of the holy Bull in Greece and the 
maypole of our forefathers. Great is the sanc- 
tity of the Bear or the Bull or the Tree ; the 
Bear for a hunting people ; the Bull for nomads, 
later for agriculturists; the Tree for a forest 
folk. On the Bear and the Bull and the Tree 
are focussed the desire of the whole people. 
Bear and Bull and Tree are sacred, that is, 
set apart, because full of a special life and 
strength intensely desired. They are led and 



SPRING FESTIVAL IN GREECE 99 

carried about from house to house that their 
sanctity may touch all, and avail for all ; the 
animal dies that he may be eaten; the Tree 
is torn to pieces that all may have a fragment ; 
and, above all, Bear and Bull and Tree die only 
that they may live again. 

We have seen (p. 71) that, out of the puppet 
or the May Queen, actually perceived year after 
year there arose a remembrance, a mental 
image, an imagined Tree Spirit, or " Summer," 
or Death, a thing never actually seen but con- 
ceived. Just so with the Bull. Year by year 
in the various villages of Greece was seen an 
actual holy Bull, and bit by bit from the 
remembrance of these various holy Bulls, 
who only died to live again each year, there 
arose the image of a Bull-Spirit, or Bull- 
Daimon, and finally, if we like to call him so, 
a Bull-God. The growth of this idea, this 
coizception, must have been much helped by 
the fact that in some places the dancers 
attendant on the holy Bull dressed up as 
bulls and cows. The women worshippers of 
Dionysos, we are told, wore bulls' horns in 
imitation of the god, for thc}^ represented him 
in pictures as having a bull's head. We 



100 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

know that a man does not turn into a bull, 
or a bull into a man, the line of demarcation 
is clearly drawn; but the rustic has no such 
conviction even to-day. That crone, his aged 
aunt, may any day come in at the window 
in the shape of a black cat; why should she 
not ? It is not, then, that a god " takes upon 
him the form of a bull," or is " incarnate in a 
bull," but that the real Bull and the worshipper 
dressed as a bull are seen and remembered 
and give rise to an imagined Bull-God ; but, 
it should be observed, only among gifted, 
imaginative, that is, image-making, peoples. 
The Ainos have their actual holy Bear, as the 
Greeks had their holy Bull; but with them 
out of the succession of holy Bears there arises, 
alas ! no Bear-God. 

We have dwelt long on the Bull-driving 
Dithyramb, because it was not obvious on 
the face of it how driving a bull could help 
the coming of spring. We understand now 
why, on the day before the tragedies were per- 
formed at Athens, the young men (epheboi) 
brought in not only the human figure of the 
god, but also a Bull " worthy " of the God. 
We understand, too, why in addition to the 



SPRING FESTIVAL IN GREECE 101 

tragedies performed at the great festival, 
Dithyrambs were also sung — " Bull-driving 
Dithyrambs." 

We come next to a third aspect of the 
Dithyramb, and one perhaps the most im- 
portant of all for the understanding of art, 
and especially the drama. The Dithyramb 
ivas the Song and Dance of the New Birth. 

Plato is discussing various sorts of odes 
or songs. " Some," he says, " are prayers 
to the gods — these are called hymns ; others 
of an opposite sort might best be called 
dirges ; another sort are pceans, and another 
— the birth of Dionysos, I suppose — is called 
Dithyramb.'" Plato is not much interested 
in Dithyrambs. To him they are just a 
particular kind of choral song ; it is doubtful 
if he even knew that they were Spring Songs ; 
but this he did know, though he throws out 
the information carelessly — the Dithyramb 
had for its proper subject the birth or 
coming to be, the geriesis of Dionysos. 

The common usage of Greek poetry bears 
out Plato's statement. When a poet is going 
to describe the birth of Dionysos he calls 
the god by the title Dithyrambos. Thus 



102 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

an inscribed hymn found at Delphi ^ opens 
thus : 

^' Come, O Dithyrambos, Bacchos, come. 

Bromios, come, and coming with thee bring 
Holy hours of thine own holy spring. 

All the stars danced for joy. Mirth 
Of mortals hailed thee, Bacchos, at thy 
birth." 

The Dithyramb is the song of the birth, and 
the birth of Dionysos is in the spring, the 
time of the maypole, the time of the holy 
Bull. 

And now we come to a curious thing. We 
have seen how a spirit, a daemon, and perhaps 
ultimately a god, develops out of an actual 
rite. Dionysos the Tree-God, the Spirit of 
Vegetation, is but a maypole once perceived, 
then remembered and conceived. Dionysos, 
the Bull-God, is but the actual holy Bull 
himself, or rather the succession of annual 
holy Bulls once perceived, then remembered, 

1 See my Prolegomena, p. 439. 



SPRING FESTIVAL IN GREECE 103 

generalized, conceived. But the god con- 
ceived will surelv ahvavs be made in the image, 
the mental image, of the fact perceived. If, 
then, we have a song and dance of the birth 
of Dionysos, shall we not, as in the Christian 
religion, have a child-god, a holy babe, a 
Saviour in the manger; at first in original 
form as a calf, then as a human child ? Now 
it is quite true that in Greek religion there is a 
babe Dionysos called Liknites, " Him of the 
Cradle." ^ The rite of waking up, or bringing 
to light, the child Liknites was performed each 
year at Delphi by the holy women. 

But it is equally clear and certain that the 
Dionysos of Greek worship and of the drama 
was not a babe in the cradle. He was a goodly 
youth in the first bloom of manhood, with the 
down upon his cheek, the time when. Homer 
says, " youth is most gracious." This is the 
Dionysos that we know in statuary, the fair, 
dreamy youth sunk in reverie; this is the 
Dionysos whom Pentheus despised and in- 
sulted because of his young beauty like a 
woman's. But how could such a Dionysos 
arise out of a rite of birth? He could not, and 
he did not. The Dithyramb is also the song 
1 Prolegomena, p. 402. 



104 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

of the second or new birth, the Dithyrambos 
is the twice-born. 

This the Greeks themselves knew. By a 
false etymology they explained the word 
Dithyrambos as meaning " He of the double 
door," their word ihyra being the same as 
our door. They were quite mistaken ; Dithy- 
rambos, modern philology tells us, is the Divine 
Leaper, Dancer, and Lifegiver. But their 
false etymology is important to us, because 
it shows that they believed the Dithyrambos 
was the twice-born. Dionysos was born, 
they fabled, once of his mother, like all men, 
once of his father's thigh, like no man. 

But if the Dithyrambos, the young Dio- 
nysos, like the Bull-God, the Tree-God, arises 
from a dromenon, a rite, what is the rite of 
second birth from which it arises ? 

We look in vain among our village customs. 
If ever rite of second birth existed, it is dead 
and buried. We turn to anthropology for 
help, and find this, the rite of the second birth, 
widespread, universal, over half the savage 
world. 

With the savage, to be twice born is the rule, 
not the exception. By his first birth he 



SPRING FESTIVAL IN GREECE 105 

comes into the world, by his second he is born 
into his tribe. At his first birth he belongs 
to his mother and the women-folk; at his 
second he becomes a full-fledged man and 
passes into the society of the warriors of his 
tribe. This second birth is a little difficult 
for us to realize. A boy with us passes very 
gradually from childhood to manhood, there 
is no definite moment when he suddenly 
emerges as a man. Little by little as his 
education advances he is admitted to the 
social privileges of the circle in which he is 
born. He goes to school, enters a workshop 
or a university, and finally adopts a trade or a 
profession. In the case of girls, in whose up- 
bringing primitive savagery is apt to linger, 
there is still, in certain social strata a ceremony 
known as Coming Out. A girl's dress is 
suddenly lengthened, her hair is put up, she 
is allowed to wear jewels, she kisses her sove- 
reign's hand, a dance is given in her honour, 
abruptly, from her seclusion in the cocoon state 
of the schoolroom, she emerges full-blown into 
society. But the custom, with its half- 
realized savagery, is already dying, and with 
boys it does not obtain at all. Both sexes share,, 
of course, the religious rite of Confirmation. 



106 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

To avoid harsh distinctions, to bridge over 
abrupt transitions, is always a mark of 
advancing civilization; but the savage, in 
his ignorance and fear, lamentably over- 
stresses distinctions and transitions. The 
long process of education, of passing from 
child to man, is with him condensed into a 
few days, weeks, or sometimes months of 
tremendous educational emphasis — of what 
is called " initiation," " going in," that is, 
entering the tribe. The ceremonies vary, 
but the gist is always substantially the same. 
The boy is to put away childish things, and 
become a grown and competent tribesman. 
Above all he is to cease to be a woman-thing 
-and become a man. His initiation prepares 
him for his two chief functions as a tribesman 
— to be a warrior, to be a father. That to the 
savage is the main if not the whole Duty of Man. 

This " initiation " is of tremendous impor- 
tance, and we should expect, what in fact 
we find, that all this emotion that centres 
about it issues in dromena, " rites done." 
These rites are very various, but they all 
point one moral, that the former things are 
passed away and that the new-born man has 
entered on a new life. 



SPRING FESTIVAL IN GREECE 107 

Simplest perhaps of all, and most instruc- 
tive, is the rite practised by the Kikuyu 
of British East Africa,^ who require that 
every boy, just before circumcision, must be 
born again. " The mother stands up with 
the boy crouching at her feet; she pretends 
to go through all the labour pains, and the 
boy on being reborn cries like a babe and is 
washed." 

More often the new birth is simulated, or 
imagined, as a death and a resurrection, either 
of the boys themselves or of some one else in 
their presence. Thus at initiation among some 
tribes of South-east Australia,- when the boys 
are assembled an old man dressed in stringy 
bark fibre lies down in a grave. He is covered 
up lightly with sticks and earth, and the grave 
is smoothed over. The buried man holds in 
his hand a small bush which seems to be 
growing from the ground, and other bushes 
are stuck in the ground round about. The 
novices are then brought to the edge of the 
grave and a song is sung. Gradually, as the 
song goes on, the bush held by the buried 
man begins to quiver. It moves more and 

^ Frazer, Tofemism and Exogamy, Vol. I, p. 228. 
2 The Golden Bough;- III, 424. 



108 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

more and bit by bit the man himself starts 
up from the grave. 

The Fijians have a drastic and repulsive 
way of simulating death. The boys are 
shown a row of seemingly dead men, their 
bodies covered with blood and entrails, which 
are really those of a dead pig. The first gives 
a sudden yell. Up start the men, and then 
run to the river to cleanse themselves. 

Here the death is vicarious. Another goes 
through the simulated death that the initiated 
boy may have new life. But often the 
mimicry is practised on the boys themselves. 
Thus in West Ceram ^ boys at puberty are 
admitted to the Kakian association. The 
boys are taken blindfold, followed by their 
relations, to an oblong wooden shed under the 
darkest trees in the depths of the forest. 
When all are assembled the high priest calls 
aloud on the devils, and immediately a 
hideous uproar is heard from the shed. It is 
really made by men in the shed with bamboo 
trumpets, but the women and children think 
it is the devils. Then the priest enters the 
shed with the boys, one at a time. A dull 
thud of chopping is heard, a fearful cry rings 
1 The Golden Bough,^ III, 442. 



SPRING FESTIVAL IN GREECE 109 

out, and a sword dripping with blood is 
thrust out through the roof. This is the 
token that the boy's head has been cut off, 
and that the devil has taken him away to the 
other world, whence he wdll return born again. 
In a day or two the men who act as sponsors 
to the boys return daubed with mud, and in 
a half-fainting state like messengers from 
another world. They bring the good news 
that the devil has restored the boys to life. 
The boys themselves appear, but when they 
return they totter as they walk ; they go into 
the house backwards. If food is given them 
they upset the plate. They sit dumb and 
only make signs. The sponsors have to 
teach them the simplest daily acts as though 
they were new-born children. At the end 
of twenty to thirty days, during which their 
mothers and sisters may not comb their hair, 
the high priest takes them to a lonely place 
in the forest and cuts off a lock of hair from 
the crown of each of their heads. At the 
close of these rites the boys are men and may 
marry. 

Sometimes the new^ birth is not simulated 
but merely suggested. A new name is given, 
a new language taught, a new dress worn, 



110 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

new dances are danced. Almost always it 
is accompanied by moral teaching. Thus 
in the Kakian ceremony alread}^ described 
the boys have to sit in a row cross-legged, 
without moving a muscle, with their hands 
stretched out. The chief takes a trumpet, 
and placing the mouth of it on the hand of 
each lad, he speaks through it in strange tones, 
imitating the voice of spirits. He warns the 
boys on pain of death to observe the rules of 
the society, and never to reveal what they 
have seen in the Kakian house. The priests 
also instruct the boys on their duty to their 
blood relations, and teach them the secrets 
of the tribe. 

Sometimes it is not clear whether the new 
birth is merely suggested or represented in 
pantomime. Thus among the Binbinga of 
North Australia it is generally believed that at 
initiation a monstrous being called Kata- 
jalina, like the Kronos of the Greeks, swallows 
the boys and brings them up again initiated ; 
but whether there is or is not a dromenon or 
rite of swallowing we are not told. 

In totemistic societies, and in the animal 
secret societies that seem to grow out of them, 
the novice is born again as the sacred animal. 



SPRING FESTIVAL IX GREECE 111 

Thus among the Carrier Indians ^ when a 
man wants to become a Lulem, or Bear, 
however cold the season, he tears off his 
clothes, puts on a bearskin and dashes into 
the woods, where he ^Yi\\ stay for three or 
four days. Every night his fellow- villagers 
vnW go out in search parties to find him. 
They cry out Yi ! Keluleni (" Come on. Bear ") 
and he answers with angry growls. Usually 
they fail to find him, but he comes back at 
last himself. He is met and conducted to 
the ceremonial lodge, and there, in company 
with the rest of the Bears, dances solemnly 
his first appearance. Disappearance and re- 
appearance is as common a rite in initiation 
as simulated killing and resurrection, and has 
the same object. Both are rites of transition, 
of passing from one state to another. It has 
often been remarked, by students of ancient 
Greek and other ceremonies, that the rites of 
birth, marriage, and death, which seem to us 
so different, are to primitive man oddly 
similar. This is explained if we see that in 
intent they are all the same, all a passing 
from one social state to another. There are 
but two factors in every rite, the putting off 
1 The Golden Bough,- III, p. 438. 



112 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

of the old, the putting on of the new; you 
carry out Winter or Death, you bring in 
Summer or Life. Between them is a mid- 
way state when you are neither here nor 
there, you are secluded, under a taboo. 

To the Greeks and to many primitive peo- 
ples the rites of birth, marriage, and death 
were for the most part family rites needing 
little or no social emphasis. But the rite 
which concerned the whole tribe, the essence 
of which was entrance into the tribe, was the 
rite of initiation at puberty. This all-im- 
portant fact is oddly and significantly en- 
shrined in the Greek language. The general 
Greek word for rite was telete. It was applied 
to all mysteries, and sometimes to marriages 
and funerals. But it has nothing to do with 
death. It comes from a root meaning " to 
grow up." The word telete means rite of 
growing up, becoming complete. It meant 
at first maturity, then rite of maturity, then 
by a natural extension any rite of initiation 
that was mysterious. The rites of puberty 
were in their essence mysterious, because 
they consisted in initiation into the sanctities 
of the tribe, the things which society sanctioned 



SPRING FESTIVAL IN GREECE 113 

and protected, excluding the uninitiated, 
whether they were young boys, women, or 
members of other tribes. Then, by contagion, 
the mystery notion spread to other rites. 

We understand now who and what was 
the god who arose out of the rite, the dromenon 
of tribal initiation, the rite of the new% the 
second bii'th. He was Dionysos. His name, 
according to recent philology, tells us — Dio- 
nysos, " Divine Young Man." 

When once we see that out of the emotion 
of the rite and the facts of the rite arises that 
remembrance and shadow of the rite, that 
image which is the god, we realize instantly 
that the god of the spring rite ynust be a 
young god, and in primitive societies, where 
young women are but of secondary account, 
he will necessarily be a young man. \Miere 
emotion centres round tribal initiation he 
will be a young man just initiated, what the 
Greeks called a kouros, or ephebos, a youth of 
quite different social status from a mere 
pais or boy. Such a youth survives in our 
King of the May and Jack-in-the Green. Old 
men and women are for death and winter, 
the young for life and spring, and most of 



114 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

all the young man or bear or bull or tree 
just come to maturity. 

And because life is one at the Spring Festival, 
the young man carries a blossoming branch 
bound with wool of the young sheep. At 
Athens in spring and autumn alike " they 
carry out the Eiresione, a branch of olive 
wound about with wool . . . and laden with 
all sorts of firstfruits, that scarcity may cease, 
and they sing over it : 

" Eiresione brings 
Figs and fat cakes, 
And a pot of honey and oil to mix, 
And a wine-cup strong and deep, 
That she may drink and sleep." 

The Eiresione had another name that told 
its own tale. It was called Korythalia,^ 
" Branch of blooming youth." The young 
men, says a Greek orator, are *' the Spring of 
the people." 

The excavations of Crete have given to us 
an ancient inscribed hymn, a Dithyramb, we 
may safely call it, that is at once a spring - 
song and a young man-song. The god here 

^ See my Themis, p. 503. 



SPRING FESTIVAL IN GREECE 115 

invoked is what the Greeks call a houros, a 
young man. It is sung and danced by young 
warriors : 

" Ho ! Kouros, most Great, I give thee hail, 
Lord of all that is wet and gleaming; thou 
art come at the head of thy Daimones. To 
Dikte for the Year, Oh, march and rejoice 
in the dance and song." 

The leader of the band of kouroi, of young 
men, the real actual leader, has become by 
remembrance and abstraction, as we noted, 
a daimon, or spirit, at the head of a band of 
spirits, and he brings in the new year at 
spring. The real leader, the " first kouros " 
as the Greeks called him, is there in the body, 
but from the succession of leaders year by 
year they have imaged a spirit leader greatest 
of all. He is " lord of all that is wet and 
gleaming," for the May bough, we remember, 
is drenched with dew and water that it may 
burgeon and blossom. Then they chant the 
tale of how of old a child was taken away from 
its mother, taken by armed men to be initi- 
ated, armed men dancing their tribal dance. 
The stone is unhappily broken here, but 
enough remains to make the meaning clear. 



116 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

And because this boy grew up and was 
initiated into manhood : 

" The Horae (Seasons) began to be fruitful 
year by year and Dike to possess mankind, 
and all wild living things were held about by 
wealth-loving Peace." 

We know the Seasons, the fruit and food 
bringers, but Dike is strange. We translate 
the word " Justice," but Dike means, not 
Justice as between man and man, but the 
order of the world, the way of life. It is 
through this way, this order, t?iat the seasons 
go round. As long as the seasons observe this 
order there is fruitfulness and peace. If 
once that order were overstepped then would 
be disorder, strife, confusion, barrenness. 
And next comes a mandate, strange to our 
modern ears : 

"To us also leap for full jars, and leap for 
fleecy flocks, and leap for fields of fruit and 
for hives to bring increase." 

And yet not strange if we remember the 
Macedonian farmer (p. 32), who throws his 
spade into the air that the wheat may be tall, 
or the Russian peasant girls who leap high 



SPRING FESTIVAL IN GREECE 117 

in the air crying, " Flax, grow." The leaping 
of the youths of the Cretan hymn is just the 
utterance of their tense desire. They have 
grown up, and with them all live things must 
grow. By their magic year by year the fruits 
of the earth come to their annual new birth. 
And that there be no mistake they end : 

" Leap for our cities, and leap for our sea- 
borne ships, and for our young citizens, and 
for goodly Themis." 

They are now young citizens of a fenced 
city instead of young tribesmen of the bush, 
but their magic is the same, and the strength 
that holds them together is the bond of social 
custom, social structure, " goodly Themis." 
No man liveth to himself. 

Crete is not Athens, but at Athens in the 
theatre of Dionysos, if the priest of Dionysos, 
seated at the great Spring Festival in his 
beautiful carved central seat, looked across 
the orchestra, he would see facing him a stone 
frieze on which was sculptured the Cretan 
ritual, the armed dancing youths and the 
child to be year by year reborn. 



118 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

We have seen what the Dithyramb, from 
which sprang the Drama, was. A Spring 
song, a song of Bull-driving, a song and dance 
of Second Birth ; but all this seems, perhaps, 
not to bring us nearer to Greek drama, rather 
to put us farther away. What have the Spring 
and the Bull and the Birth Rite to do with 
the stately tragedies we know — with Aga- 
memnon and Iphigenia and Orestes and 
Hippolytos ? That is the question before 
us, and the answer will lead us to the very 
heart of our subject. So far we have seen 
that ritual arose from the presentation and 
emphasis of emotion — emotion felt mainly 
about food. We have further seen that ritual 
develops out of and by means of periodic 
festivals. One of the chief periodic festivals 
at Athens was the Spring Festival of the 
Dithyramb. Out of this Dithyramb arose, 
Aristotle says, tragedy — ^that is, out of Ritual 
arose Art. How and Why ? That is the 
question before us. 



CHAPTER V 

TRANSITION FROM RITUAL TO ART : THE 
DROMENON ("THING DONE ") AND THE 
DRAMA 

Probably most people when they go to a 
Greek play for the first time think it a strange 
performance. According, perhaps, more to 
their temperament than to their training, 
they are either very much excited or very 
much bored. In many minds there will be 
left a feeling that, whether they have enjoyed 
the play or not, they are puzzled : there are 
odd effects, conventions, suggestions. 

For example, the main deed of the Tragedy, 
the slaying of hero or heroine, is not done 
on the stage. That disappoints some modern 
minds unconsciously avid of realism to the 
point of horror. Instead of a fine thrilling 
murder or suicide before his very eyes, the 
spectator is put off with an account of the 
murder done off the stage. This account is 
regularly given, and usually at considerable 
119 



120 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

length, in a " messenger's speech." The mes- 
senger's speech is a regular item in a Greek 
play, and though actually it gives scope not 
only for fine elocution, but for real dramatic 
effect, in theory we feel it undramatic, and 
a modern actor has sometimes much ado to 
make it acceptable. The spectator is told 
that all these, to him, odd conventions are 
due to Greek restraint, moderation, good 
taste, and yet for all their supposed restraint 
and reserve, he finds when he reads his Homer 
that Greek heroes frequently burst into floods 
of tears when a self-respecting Englishman 
would have suffered in silence. 

Then again, specially if the play be by 
Euripides, it ends not with a " curtain," 
not with a great decisive moment, but with 
the appearance of a god who says a few lines 
of either exhortation or consolation or recon- 
ciliation, which, after the strain and stress 
of the action itself, strikes some people as 
rather stilted and formal, or as rather flat 
and somehow unsatisfying. Worse still, there 
are in many of the scenes long dialogues, in 
which the actors wrangle with each other, 
and in which the action does not advance 
as quickly as we wish. Or again, instead of 



FROM RITUAL TO ART 121 

beginning with the action, and having our 
curiosity excited bit by bit about the plot^ 
at the outset some one conies in and tells us 
the whole thing in the prologue. Prologues 
we feel, are out of date, and the Greeks ought 
to have known better. Or again, of course we 
admit that tragedy must be tragic, and we are 
prepared for a decent amount of lamenta- 
tion, but when an antiphonal lament goes on 
for pages, we weary and wish that the chorus 
would stop lamenting and do something. 

At the back of our modern discontent 
there is lurking always this queer anomaly of 
the chorus. We have in our modern theatre 
no chorus, and when, in the opera, something 
of the nature of a chorus appears in the ballet, 
it is a chorus that really dances to amuse 
and excite us in the intervals of operatic 
action; it is not a chorus of doddering and 
pottering old men, moralizing on an action 
in which they are too feeble to join. Of 
course if we are classical scholars we do not 
cavil at the choral songs ; the extreme difficulty 
of scannincp and construincp them alone com- 
mands a traditional respect ; but if we are 
merely modern spectators, we may be re- 



122 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

spectful, we may even feel strangely excited, 
but we are certainly puzzled. The reason of 
our bewilderment is simple enough. These 
prologues and messengers' speeches and ever- 
present choruses that trouble us are ritual 
forms still surviving at a time when the drama 
has fully developed out of the dromenon. We 
cannot here examine all these ritual forms in 
detail ; ^ one, however, the chorus, strangest 
and most beautiful of all, it is essential we 
should understand. 

Suppose that these choral songs have been 
put into English that in any way represents 
the beauty of the Greek; then certainly 
there will be some among the spectators who 
get a thrill from the chorus quite unknown 
to any modern stage effect, a feeling of emotion 
heightened yet restrained, a sense of entering 
into higher places, filled with a larger and a 
purer air — a sense of beauty born clean out 
of conflict and disaster. 

A suspicion dawns upon the spectator that, 

great though the tragedies in themselves are, 

they owe their peculiar, their incommunicable 

beauty largely to this element of the chorus 

which seemed at first so strange, 

^ See Bibliography at ^eiid for Professor Murray's 
examination. 



FROM RITUAL TO ART 123 

Now by examining this chorus and under- 
standing its function — nay, more, by consider- 
ing the actual orchestra, the space on which 
the chorus danced, and the relation of that 
space to the rest of the theatre, to the stage 
and the place where the spectators sat — we 
shall get light at last on our main central 
problem : How did art arise out of ritual, and 
what is the relation of both to that actual 
hfe from which both art and ritual sprang ? 

The dramas of .^schylus certainly, and 
perhaps also those of Sophocles and Euripides, 
were played not upon the stage, and not in 
the theatre, but, strange though it sounds to 
us, in the orchestra. The theatre to the Greeks 
was simply '' the place of seeing, the place 
where the spectators sat ; what they called the 
Skene or scene, was the tent or hut in which the 
actors dressed. But the kernel and centre of the 
whole was the orchestra, the circular dancing- 
place of the chorus ; and, as the orchestra 
was the kernel and centre of the theatre, so the 
chorus, the band of dancing and singing men 
— this chorus that seems to us so odd and even 
superfluous — w^as the centre and kernel and 
starting-point of the drama. The chorus 



124 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

danced and sang that Dithyramb we know 
so well, and from the leaders of that Dithy- 
ramb we remember tragedy arose, and the 
chorus were at first, as an ancient writer tells 
us, just men and boys, tillers of the earth, 
who danced when they rested from sowing 
and ploughing. 

Now it is in the relation between the 
orchestra or dancing-place of the chorus, 
and the theatre or place of the spectators, a 
relation that shifted as time went on, that 
we see mirrored the whole development from 
ritual to art — from dromenon to drama. 

The orchestra on which the Dithyramb was 
danced was just a circular dancing-place 
beaten flat for the convenience of the dancers, 
and sometimes edged by a stone basement to 
mark the circle. This circular orchestra is 
very well seen in the theatre of Epidaurus, 
of which a sketch is given in Fig. 1. The 
orchestra here is surrounded by a splendid 
theatron, or spectator place, with seats rising 
tier above tier. If we want to realize the 
primitive Greek orchestra or dancing-place, 
we must think these stone seats away. 
Threshing-floors are used in Greece to-day as 




125 



126 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

convenient dancing-places. The dance tends 
to be circular because it is round some sacred 
thing, at first a maypole, or the reaped corn, 
later the figure of a god or his altar. On this 
dancing-place the whole body of worshippers 
would gather, just as now-a-days the whole 
community will assemble on a village green. 
There is no division at first between actors 
and spectators; all are actors, all are doing 
the thing done, dancing the dance danced. 
Thus at initiation ceremonies the whole tribe 
assembles, the only spectators are the un- 
initiated, the women and children. No one 
at this early stage thinks of building a tJieatre, 
a spectator place. It is in the common act, 
the common or collective emotion, that ritual 
starts. This must never be forgotten. 

The most convenient spot for a mere 
dancing-place is some flat place. But any 
one who travels through Greece will notice 
instantly that all the Greek theatres that 
remain at Athens, at Epidaurus, at Delos, 
Syracuse, and elsewhere, are built against the 
side of hills. None of these are very early; 
the earliest ancient orchestra we have is at 
Athens. It is a simple stone ring, but it is 
built against the steep south side of the 



FROM RITUAL TO ART 127 

Acropolis. The oldest festival of Dionysos 
was, as will presently be seen, held in quite 
another spot, in the agora, or market-place. 
The reason for moving the dance was that the 
wooden seats that used to be set up on a sort 
of " grand stand " in the market-place fell 
down, and it was seen how safely and com- 
fortably the spectators could be seated on the 
side of a steep hill. 

The spectators are a new and different 
element, the dance is not only danced, but 
it is watched from a distance, it is a spectacle ; 
whereas in old days all or nearly all were 
worshippers acting, now many, indeed most, 
are spectators, watching, feeling, thinking, 
not doing. It is in this new attitude of the 
spectator that we touch on the difference 
between ritual and art; the droynenon, the 
thing actually done by yourself has become a 
drama, a thing also done, but abstracted from 
your doing. Let us look for a moment at the 
psychology of the spectator, at his behaviour. 

Artists, it is often said, and usually felt, 
are so unpractical. They are always late for 
dinner, they forget to post their letters and to 
return the books or even monev that is lent 



128 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

them. Art is to most people's minds a sort 
of luxury, not a necessity. In but recently 
bygone days music, drawing, and dancing were 
no part of a training for ordinary life, they 
were taught at school as " accomplishments," 
paid for as " extras." Poets on their side 
equally used to contrast art and life, as though 
they were things essentially distinct. 

" Art is long, and Time is fleeting." 

Now commonplaces such as these, being 
unconscious utterances of the collective mind, 
usually contain much truth, and are well 
worth weighing. Art, we shall show later, 
is profoundly connected with life ; it is nowise 
superfluous. But, for all that, art, both its 
creation and its enjoyment, is unpractical. 
Thanks be to God, life is not limited to the 
practical. 

When we say art is unpractical, we mean 
that art is cut loose from immediate action. 
Take a simple instance. A man — or perhaps 
still better a child — sees a plate of cherries. 
Through his senses comes the stimulus of the 
smell of the cherries, and their bright colour 
urging him, luring him to eat. He eats and 
is satisfied; the cycle of normal behaviour is 



FROM RITUAL TO ART 129 

complete ; he is a man or a child of action, but 
he is no artist, and no art-lover. Another 
man looks at the same plate of cherries. His 
sight and his smell lure him and urge him to 
eat. He does not eat; the cycle is not com- 
pleted, and, because he does not eat, the 
sight of those cherries, though perhaps not the 
smell, is altered, purified from desire, and in 
some way intensified, enlarged. If he is just 
a man of taste, he will take what we call an 
" aesthetic " pleasure in those cherries. If he is 
an actual artist, he will paint not the cherries, 
but his vision of them, his purified emotion 
towards them. He has, so to speak, come out 
from the chorus of actors, of cherry-eaters, 
and become a spectator. 

I borrow, by his kind permission, a beautiful 
instance of what he well calls "" Psychical 
Distance " from the writings of a psychologist. ^ 

'' Imagine a fog at sea : for most people 
it is an experience of acute unpleasantness. 
Apart from the physical annoyance and 
remoter forms of discomfort, such as delays, 
it is apt to produce feelings of peculiar anxiety, 
fears of invisible dangers, strains of watching 

^ Mr. Edward Bullough, The British Journal of Psycho- 
logy (1912), p. 88. 

I 



130 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

and listening for distant and unlocalized 
signals. The listless movements of the ship 
and her warning calls soon tell upon the nerves 
of the passengers; and that special, expec- 
tant tacit anxiety and nervousness, always 
associated w4th this experience, make a fog 
the dreaded terror of the sea (all the more 
terrifying because of its very silence and 
gentleness) for the expert seafarer no less 
than the ignorant landsman. 

" Nevertheless, a fog at sea can be a source 
of intense relish and enjoyment. Abstract 
from the experience of the sea-fog, for the 
moment, its danger and practical unpleasant- 
ness ; . . . direct the attention to the features 
' objectively ' constituting the phenomena — 
the veil surrounding you with an opaqueness 
as of transparent milk, blurring the outlines 
of things and distorting their shapes into 
weird grotesqueness ; observe the carrying 
power of the air, producing the impression 
as if you could touch some far-off siren by 
merely putting out your hand and letting it 
lose itself behind that white wall; note the 
curious creamy smoothness of the water, 
hypercritically denying as it were, any sug- 
gestion of danger ; and, above all, the strange 



FROM RITUAL TO ART 131 

solitude and remoteness from the world, as 
it can be found only on the highest mountain 
tops; and the experience may acquire, in 
its uncanny mingling of repose and terror, 
a flavour of such concentrated poignancy and 
delight as to contrast sharply with the blind 
and distempered anxiety of its other aspects. 
This contrast, often emerging with startling 
suddenness, is like the momentary switching 
on of some new current, or the passing ray 
of a brighter light, illuminating the outlook 
upon perhaps the most ordinary and familiar 
objects — an impression which we experience 
sometimes in instants of direst extremity, 
when our practical interest snaps like a wire 
from sheer over-tension, and we watch the 
consummation of some impending catastrophe 
with the marvelling unconcern of a mere 
spectator." 

It has often been noted that two, and two 
only, of our senses are the channels of art 
and give us artistic material. These two 
senses are sight and hearing. Touch and its 
special modifications, taste and smell, do not 
go to the making of art. Decadent French 
novelists, such as Huysmann,make their heroes 



132 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

revel in perfume-symphonies, but we feel that 
the sentiment described is morbid and unreal, 
and we feel rightly. Some people speak of a 
cook as an "artist, "and a pudding as a "perfect 
poem," but a healthy instinct rebels. Art, 
whether sculpture, painting, drama, music, 
is of sight or hearing. The reason is simple. 
Sight and hearing are the distant senses ; 
sight is, as some one has well said, " touch at 
a distance." Sight and hearing are of things 
already detached and somewhat remote; 
they are the fitting channels for art which is 
cut loose from immediate action and reaction. 
Taste and touch are too intimate, too imme- 
diately vital. In Russian, as Tolstoi has 
pointed out (and indeed in other languages 
the same is observable), the word for beauty 
{krasota) means, to begin with, only that 
which pleases the sight. Even hearing is 
excluded. And though latterly people have 
begun to speak of an " ugly deed " or of " beau- 
tiful music," it is not good Russian, The 
simple Russian does not make Plato's divine 
muddle between the good and the beautiful. 
If a man gives his coat to another, the 
Russian peasant, knowing no foreign language, 
will not say the man has acted "beautifully." 



FROM RITUAL TO ART 133 

To see a thing, to feel a thing, as a work of 
art, we must, then, become for the time un- 
practical, must be loosed from the fear and 
the flurry of actual living, must become 
spectators. Why is this ? Why can we not 
live and look at once ? The fact that we 
cannot is clear. If we watch a friend drowning 
we do not note the exquisite curve made by 
his body as he falls into the water, nor the 
play of the sunlight on the ripples as he dis- 
appears below the surface; we should be in- 
human, aesthetic fiends if we did. And again, 
why ? It would do our friend no harm that 
we should enjoy the curves and the sunlight, 
provided we also threw him a rope. But the 
simple fact is that we cannot look at the curves 
and the sunlight because our whole being is 
centred on acting, on saving him; we cannot 
even, at the moment, fully feel our own terror 
and impending loss. So again if we want to see 
and to feel the splendour and vigour of a lion, 
or even to watch the cumbrous grace of a 
bear, we prefer that a cage should intervene. 
The cage cuts off the need for motor actions ; 
it interposes the needful physical and moral 
distance, and we are free for contemplation. 
Released from our own terrors, we see more and 



134 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

better, and we feel differently. A man intent 
on action is like a horse in blinkers, he 
goes straight forward, seeing only the road 
ahead. 

Our brain is, indeed, it would seem, in part, 
an elaborate arrangement for providing these 
blinkers. If we saw and realized the whole 
of everything, we should want to do too many 
things. The brain allows us not only to 
remember, but, which is quite as important, to 
forget and neglect; it is an organ of oblivion. 
By neglecting most of the things we see and 
hear, we can focus just on those which are 
important for action; we can cease to be 
potential artists and become efficient practical 
human beings ; but it is only by limiting our 
view, by a great renunciation as to the 
things we see and feel. The artist does 
just the reverse. He renounces doing in 
order to practise seeing. He is by nature 
what Professor Bergson calls " distrait," aloof, 
absent-minded, intent only, or mainly, on 
contemplation. That is why the ordinary 
man often thinks the artist a fool, or, if he 
does not go so far as that, is made vaguely 
uncomfortable by him, never really under- 
stands him. The artist's focus, all his system 



FROM RITUAL TO ART 135 

of values, is different, his world is a world of 
images which are his realities. 

The distinction between art and ritual, 
which has so long haunted and puzzled us, 
now comes out quite clearly, and also in part 
the relation of each to actual life. Ritual, we 
saw, was a re-presentation or a pre-presen- 
tation, a re-doing or pre-doing, a copy or 
imitation of life, but, — and this is the impor- 
tant point, — always with a practical end. 
Art is also a representation of life and the 
emotions of life, but cut loose from immediate 
action. Action may be and often is repre- 
sented, but it is not that it may lead on to a 
practical further end. The end of art is in 
itself. Its value is not mediate but imme- 
diate. Thus ritual makes, as it were, a bridge 
between real life and art, a bridge over which 
in primitive times it would seem man must 
pass. In his actual life he hunts and fishes 
and ploughs and sows, being utterly intent 
on the practical end of gaining his food; in 
the dromenon of the Spring Festival, though 
his acts are unpractical, being mere singing 
and dancing and mimicry, his intent is practi- 
cal, to induce the return of his food-supply. 



136 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

In the drama the representation may remain 
for a time the same, but the intent is altered : 
man has come out from action, he is separate 
from the dancers, and has become a spectator. 
The drama is an end in itself. 

We know from tradition that in Athens 
ritual became art, a dromenon became the 
drama, and we have seen that the shift is 
symbolized and expressed by the addition of 
the theatre, or spectator-place, to the orchestra, 
or dancing-place. We have also tried to 
analyse the meaning of the shift. It remains 
to ask what was its cause. Ritual does not 
always develop into art, though in all proba- 
bility dramatic art has always to go through 
the stage of ritual. The leap from real life 
to the emotional contemplation of life cut 
loose from action would otherwise be too 
wide. Nature abhors a leap, she prefers to 
crawl over the ritual bridge. There seem 
at Athens to have been two main causes why 
the dromenon passed swiftly, inevitably, into 
the drama. They are, first, the decay of 
religious faith ; second, the influx from abroad 
of a new culture and new dramatic material. 

It may seem surprising to some that the 



FROM RITUAL TO ART 137 

decay of religious faith should be an impulse 
to the birth of art. We are accustomed to 
talk rather vaguely of art " as the handmaid 
of religion"; we think of art as "inspired 
by " religion. But the decay of religious 
faith of which we now speak is not the decay 
of faith in a god, or even the decay of some 
high spiritual emotion ; it is the decay of a 
belief in the efficacy of certain magical rites, 
and especially of the Spring Rite. So long 
as people believed that by excited dancing, 
by bringing in an image or leading in a bull 
you could induce the coming of Spring, so 
long would the dromena of the Dithyramb 
be enacted with intense enthusiasm, and with 
this enthusiasm would come an actual acces- 
sion and invigoration of vital force. But, 
once the faintest doubt crept in, once men 
began to be guided by experience rather than 
custom, the enthusiasm would die down, and 
the collective invigoration no longer be felt. 
Then some day there will be a bad summer, 
things will go all ^vrong, and the chorus will 
sadly ask : '* \\Tiy should I dance my dance ? " 
They will drift away or become mere spec- 
tators of a rite established by custom. The 
rite itself will die down, or it will live on 



138 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

only as the May Day rites of to-day, a 
children's play, or at best a thing done vaguely 
"for luck." 

The spirit of the rite, the belief in its 
efficacy, dies, but the rite itself, the actual 
mould, persists, and it is this ancient ritual 
mould, foreign to our own usage, that strikes 
us to-day, when a Greek play is revived, as 
odd and perhaps chill. A chorus, a band of 
dancers there must be, because the drama 
arose out of a ritual dance. An agon, or 
contest, or wrangling, there will probably be, 
because Summer contends with Winter, Life 
with Death, the New Year with the Old. 
A tragedy must be tragic, must have its 
pathos, because the Winter, the Old Year, 
must die. There must needs be a swift 
transition, a clash and change from sorrow 
to joy, what the Greeks called a peripeteia, 
a quick-turn-round, because, though you 
carry out Winter, you bring in Summer. 
At the end we shall have an Appearance, an 
Epiphany of a god, because the whole gist 
of the ancient ritual was to summon the 
spirit of life. All these ritual forms haunt 
and shadow the play, whatever its plot, like 
ancient traditional ghosts ; they underlie and 



FROM RITUAL TO ART 139 

sway the movement and the speeches hke 
some eompelUng rhythm. 

Now this ritual mould, this underlying 
rhythm, is a fine thing in itself ; and, moreover, 
it was once shaped and cast by a living spirit : 
the intense immediate desire for food and 
life, and for the return of the seasons which 
bring that food and life. But we have seen 
that, once the faith in man's power magically 
to bring back these seasons waned, once he 
began to doubt whether he could really carry 
out Winter and bring in Summer, his emotion 
towards these rites would cool. Further, we 
have seen that these rites repeated year by 
year ended, among an imaginative people, in 
the mental creation of some sort of daemon 
or god. This daemon, or god, was more and 
more held responsible on his own account 
for the food -supply and the order of the 
Horse, or Seasons ; so we get the notion that 
this daemon or god himself led in the Seasons ; 
Hermes dances at the head of the Charites, 
or an Eiresione is carried to Helios and the 
Horse. The thought then arises that this 
man-like daemon who rose from a real King 
of the May, must himself be approached 
and dealt with as a man, bargained with, 



140 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

sacrificed to. In a word, in place of dromena, 
things done, we get gods worshipped ; in place 
of sacraments, holy bulls killed and eaten 
in common, we get sacrifices in the modern 
sense, holy bulls offered to yet holier gods. 
The relation of these figures of gods to art 
we shall consider when we come to sculpture. 

So the di'omenon, the thing done, wanes, 
the prayer, the praise, the sacrifice waxes. 
Religion moves away from drama towards 
theology, but the ritual mould of the dromenon 
is left ready for a new content. 

Again, there is another point. The magical 
dronienon, the Carrying out of Winter, the 
Bringing in of Spring, is doomed to an in- 
herent and deadly monotony. It is only 
when its magical efficacy is intensely believed 
that it can go on. The life-history of a holy 
bull is always the same; its magical essence 
is that it should be the same. Even when the 
life-daemon is human his career is unchequered. 
He is born, initiated, or born again; he is 
married, grows old, dies, is buried; and the 
old, old story is told again next year. There 
are no fresh personal incidents, peculiar to 
one particular daemon. If the drama rose 
from the Spring Song only, beautiful it might 



FROM RITUAL TO ART 141 

be, but with a beauty that was monotonous, 
a beauty doomed to steriUty. 

We seem to have come to a sort of impasse, 
the spirit of the droinenon is dead or dying, 
the spectators ^^ill not stay long to watch a 
doing doomed to monotony. The ancient 
moulds are there, the old bottles, but where 
is the new wine ? The pool is stagnant ; 
what angel will step down to trouble the 
waters ? 

Fortunately we are not left to conjecture 
what might have happened. In the case of 
Greece we know% though not as clearly as we 
wish, what did happen. We can see in part 
why, though the dromena of Adonis and 
Osiris, emotional as they were and intensely 
picturesque, remained mere ritual; the dro- 
menon of Dionysos, his Dith\Tamb, blossomed 
into drama. 

Let us look at the facts, and first at some 
structural facts in the building of the theatre. 

We have seen that the orchestra, with its 
dancing chorus, stands for ritual, for the 
stage in which all were worshippers, all 
joined in a rite of practical intent. We 
further saw that the theatre^ the place for the 



142 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

spectators, stood for art. In the orchestra 
all is life and dancing; the marble seats are 
the very symbol of rest, aloofness from action, 
contemplation. The seats for the spectators 
grow and grow in importance till at last they 
absorb, as it were, the whole spirit, and give 
their name theatre to the whole structure; 
action is swallowed up in contemplation. 
But contemplation of what ? At first, of 
course, of the ritual dance, but not for long. 
That, we have seen, was doomed to a deadly 
monotony. In a Greek theatre there was 
not only orchestra and a spectator-place, 
there was also a scene or stage. 

The Greek word for stage is, as we said, 
Skene, our scene. The scene was not a stage 
in our sense, i. e. a platform raised so that 
the players might be better viewed. It was 
simply a tent, or rude hut, in which the players, 
or rather dancers, could put on their ritual 
dresses. The fact that the Greek theatre 
had, to begin with, no permanent stage in 
our sense, shows very clearly how little it 
was regarded as a spectacle. The ritual 
dance was a dromenon, a thing to be done, 
not a thing to be looked at. The history of 
the Greek stage is one long story of the 



FROM RITUAL TO ART 143 

encroachment of the stage on the orchestra. 
At first a rude platform or table is set up, 
then scenery is added; the movable tent is 
translated into a stone house or a temple 
front. This stands at first outside the 
orchestra ; then bit by bit the scene encroaches 
till the sacred circle of the dancing-place is 
cut clean across. As the drama and the 
stage wax, the dromenon and the orchestra 
wane. 

This shift in the relation of dancing-place 
and stage is very clearly seen in Fig. 2, a plan 
of the Dionysiac theatre at Athens (p. 144). 
The old circular orchestra shows the domin- 
ance of ritual ; the new curtailed orchestra of 
Roman times and semicircular shape shows 
the dominance of the spectacle. 

Greek tragedy arose, Aristotle has told us, 
from the leaders of the Dith}Tamb, the leaders 
of the Spring Dance. The Spring Dance, the 
mime of Summer and Winter, had, as we 
have seen, only one actor, one actor with 
tv/o parts — Death and Life. With only one 
play to be played, and that a one-actor play, 
there was not much need for a stage. A 
scene, that is a tent, was needed, as we saw, 
because all the dancers had to put on their 



x<- 







P R E C i N C 

U^TER TEN PLC 



Yi.-1 Dioavsiajc Th.eatrd al Alhens. 



144 



FROM RITUAL TO ART 145 

ritual gear, but scarcely a stage. From a 
rude platform the prologue might be spoken, 
and on that platform the Epiphany or Appear- 
ance of the New Year might take place ; but 
the play played, the life-history of the life- 
spirit, was all too familiar; there was no 
need to look, the thing was to dance. You 
need a stage — not necessarily a raised stage, 
but a place apart from the dancers — when 
you have new material for your players, 
something you need to look at, to attend to. 
In the sixth century B.C., at Athens, came 
the great innovation. Instead of the old 
plot, the life-history of the life-spirit, with 
its deadly monotony, new plots were intro- 
duced, not of life-spirits but of human 
individual heroes. In a word. Homer came 
to Athens, and out of Homeric stories play- 
wrights began to make their plots. This 
innovation was the death of ritual monotony 
and the dromenon. It is not so much the 
old that dies as the new that kills. 

iEschylus himself is reported to have said 
that his tragedies were "slices from the great 
banquet of Homer." The metaphor is not 
a very pleasing one, but it expresses a truth. 



146 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

By Homer, ^schyhis meant not only our 
Iliad and Odyssey, but the whole body of 
Epic or Heroic poetry which centred round 
not only the Siege of Troy but the great 
expedition of the Seven Against Thebes, and 
which, moreover, contained the stories of 
the heroes before the siege began, and their 
adventures after it was ended. It was from 
these heroic sagas for the most part, though 
not wholly, that the myths or plots of not 
only -^schylus but also Sophocles and 
Euripides, and a host of other writers whose 
plays are lost to us, are taken. The new wine 
that was poured into the old bottles of the 
dromena at the Spring Festival was the 
heroic saga. We know as an historical fact, 
the name of the man who was mainly re- 
sponsible for this inpouring — ^the great demo- 
cratic tyrant Peisistratos. We must look for 
a moment at what Peisistratos found, and 
then pass to what he did. 

He found an ancient Spring dromenon, 
perhaps well-nigh effete. Without destroying 
the old he contrived to introduce the new, to 
add to the old plot of Summer and Winter 
the life-stories of heroes, and thereby arose 
the drama. 



FROM RITUAL TO ART 147 

Let us look first, then, at what Peisistratos 
found. 

The April festival of Dionysos at which the 
great dramas were performed was not the 
earliest festival of the god. Thucydides ^ 
expressly tells us that on the 12th day of the 
month Anthesterion, that is in the quite 
early spring, at the turn of our February 
and March, were celebrated the more ancient 
Dionysia. It was a three-days' festival. ^ 
On the first day, called " Cask-opening," the 
jars of new wine were broached. Among 
the Boeotians the day was called not the day 
of Dionysos, but the day of the Good or 
Wealthy Daimon. The next day was called 
the day of the " Cups " — there was a contest 
or agan of drinking. The last day was called 
the " Pots," and it, too, had its " Pot-Con- 
tests." It is the ceremonies of this day 
that we must notice a little in detail; for 
they are very surprising. " Casks," " Cups," 
and " Pots," sound primitive enough. 
"Casks" and "Cups" go well mth the wine- 
god, but the " Pots " call for explanation. 

The second day of the " Cups," joyful 

1 II, 15. 

2 See my Themis, p. 289, and Prolegomena, p. 35. 



148 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

though it sounds, was by the Athenians 
counted unlucky, because on that day they 
beUeved " the ghosts of the dead rose up." 
The sanctuaries were roped in, each house- 
holder anointed his door with pitch, that the 
ghost who tried to enter might catch and 
stick there. Further, to make assurance 
doubly sure, from early dawn he chewed a 
bit of buckthorn, a plant of strong purgative 
powers, so that, if a ghost should by evil 
chance go down his throat, it should at least 
be promptly expelled. 

For two, perhaps three, days of constant 
anxiety and ceaseless precautions the ghosts 
fluttered about Athens. Men's hearts were 
full of nameless dread, and, as we shall see, 
hope. At the close of the third day the 
ghosts, or, as the Greeks called them, Keres, 
were bidden to go. Some one, we do not 
know whom, it may be each father of a house- 
hold, pronounced the words : " Out of the 
door, ye Keres ; it is no longer Anthesteria," 
and, obedient, the Keres were gone. 

But before they went there was a supper for 
these souls. All the citizens cooked a 'pan- 
spermiaoT " Pot-of -all-Seeds," but of this Pot- 
of -all-Seeds no citizen tasted. It was made 



FROM RITUAL TO ART 149 

over to the spirits of the under-world and 
Hermes their daimon, Hermes " Psycho - 
pompos," Conductor, Leader of the dead. 

We have seen how a forest people, dependent 
on fruit trees and berries for their food, will 
carry a maypole and imagine a tree-spirit. 
But a people of agriculturists will feel and do 
and think quite otherwise; they will look, 
not to the forest but to the earth for their 
returning life and food; they will sow seeds 
and wait for their sprouting, as in the gardens 
of Adonis. Adonis seems to have passed 
through the two stages of Tree-Spirit and 
Seed-Spirit; his efiigy was sometimes a tree 
cut down, sometimes his planted " Gardens." 
Now seeds are many, innumerable, and they 
are planted in the earth, and a people who 
bury their dead know, or rather feel, that the 
earth is dead man's land. So, when they 
prepare a pot of seeds on their All Souls' Day, 
it is not really or merely as a " supper for 
the souls," though it may be that kindly 
notion enters. The ghosts have other work 
to do than to eat their supper and go. They 
take that supper " of all seeds," that pan- 
spermia, with them do^n to the world below, 



150 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

that they may tend it and foster it and bring 
it back in autumn as a pot of all fruits, a 
pankarpia. 

" Thou fool, that which thou so west is not 
quickened except it die." 

The dead, then, as well as the living — this 
is for us the important point — ^had their share 
in the dromena of the " more ancient 
Dionysia." These agricultural spring dromena 
were celebrated just outside the ancient city 
gates, in the agora, or place of assembly, on 
a circular dancing-place, near to a very 
primitive sanctuary of Dionysos which was 
opened only once in the year, at the Feast of 
Cups. Just outside the gates was celebrated 
yet another festival of Dionysos equally primi- 
tive, called the " Dionysia in the Fields." It 
had the form though not the date of our May 
Day festival. Plutarch ^ thus laments over 
the " good old times " : " In ancient days," 
he says, " our fathers used to keep the 
feast of Dionysos in homely, jovial fashion. 
There was a procession, a jar of wine and 
a branch ; then some one dragged in a goat, 

^ De Cupid, div. 8. 



FROM RITUAL TO ART 151 

another followed bringing a wicker basket 
of figs, and, to crown all, the phallos." It 
was just a festival of the fruits of the whole 
earth : wine and the basket of figs and the 
branch for vegetation, the goat for animal 
life, the phallos for man. No thought here 
of the dead, it is all for the living and his 
food. 

Such sanctities even a great t^Tant might 
not tamper with. But if you may not upset 
the old you may without ii'reverence add 
the new. Peisistratos probably cared little 
for, and believed less in, magical ceremonies 
for the renewal of fruits, incantations of the 
dead. We can scarcely picture him chewing 
buckthorn on the day of the " Cups," or 
anointing his front door with pitch to keep 
out the ghosts. Very wisely he left the 
Anthesteria and the kindred festival " in the 
fields" where and as they were. But for his 
own purposes he wanted to do honour to 
Dionysos, and also above all things to enlarge 
and improve the rites done in the god's 
honour, so, leaving the old sanctuary to its 
fate, he built a new temple on the south side 
of the Acropolis where the present theatre 



152 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

now stands, and consecrated to the god a 
new and more splendid precinct. 

He did not build the present theatre, we 
must always remember that. The rows of 
stone seats, the chief priest's splendid marble 
chair, were not erected till two centuries later. 
^Vhat Peisistratos did was to build a small 
stone temple (see Fig. 2), and a great round 
orchestra of stone close beside it. Small 
fragments of the circular foundation can still 
be seen. The spectators sat on the hill-side 
or on wooden seats; there was as yet no 
permanent thedtron or spectator-place, still 
less a stone stage; the dromena were done 
on the dancing-place. But for spectator- 
place they had the south slope of the Acro- 
polis. What kind of wooden stage they had 
unhappily we cannot tell. It may be that 
only a portion of the orchestra was marked 
off. 

Why did Peisistratos, if he cared little for 
" magic and ancestral ghosts, take such trouble 
to foster and amplify the worship of this 
maypole-spirit, Dionysos ? Why did he add 
to the Anthesteria, the festival of the family 
ghosts and the peasant festival " in the fields," 



FROM RITUAL TO ART 153 

a new and splendid festival, a little later in 
the spring, the Great Dionysia, or Bionysia 
of the City ? One reason among others was 
this — Peisistratos was a " tyrant." 

Now a Greek " tyrant " was not in our 
sense " tyrannical." He took his own way, 
it is true, but that way w^as to help and serve 
the common people. Tlie tyrant was usually 
raised to his position by the people, and he 
stood for democracy, for trade and industry, 
as against an idle aristocracy. It was but a 
rudimentary democracy, a democratic tyranny, 
the jDower vested in one man, but it stood 
for the rights of the many as against the few. 
Moreover, Dionysos was always of the people, 
of the *' working classes," just as the King 
and Queen of the May are now. The upper 
classes worshipped then, as now, not the Spirit 
of Spring but their oivn ancestors. But — 
and this was what Peisistratos with great 
insight saw — Dionysos must be transplanted 
from the fields to the city. The country is 
always conservative, the natural stronghold 
of a landed aristocracy, with fixed traditions ; 
the city with its closer contacts and consequent 
swifter changes, and, above all, with its ac- 
quired, not inherited, wealth, tends towards 



154 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

democracy. Peisistratos left the Dionysia 
" in the fields," but he added the Great 
Dionysia " in the city." 

Peisistratos was not the only tyrant who 
concerned himself with the dromena of Dio- 
nysos. Herodotos^ tells the story of another 
tyrant, a story which is like a window open- 
ing suddenly on a dark room. At Sicyon, a 
town near Corinth, there was in the agora 
a heroon, a hero -tomb, of an Argive hero, 
Adrastos. 

" The Sicyonians," says Herodotos, " paid 
other honours to Adrastos, and, moreover, 
they celebrated his death and disasters with 
tragic choruses, not honouring Dionysos but 
Adrastos." We think of ''tragic" choruses 
as belonging exclusively to the theatre and 
Dionysos ; so did Herodotus, but clearly here 
they belonged to a local hero. His adventures 
and his death were commemorated by choral 
dances and songs. Now when Cleisthenes 
became tyrant of Sicyon he felt that the cult 
of the local hero was a danger. What did he 
do ? Very adroitly he brought in from Thebes 
another hero as rival to Adrastos. He then 
split up the worship of Adrastos; part of 
1 V, 66. 



FRO]M RITUAL TO ART 155 

his worship, and especially his sacrifices, he 
gave to the new Theban hero, but the tragic 
choruses he gave to the common people's 
god, to Dionysos. Adrastos, the objection- 
able hero, was left to dwindle and die. No 
local hero can live on without his cult. 

The act of Cleisthenes seems to us a very 
drastic proceeding. But perhaps it was not 
really as revolutionary as it seems. The 
local hero was not so very unlike a local 
dcemon, a Spring or Winter spirit. We 
have seen in the Anthesteria how the 
paternal ghosts are expected to look after 
the seeds in spring. The more important 
the ghost the more incumbent is this duty 
upon him. Noblesse oblige. On the river 
Olynthiakos ^ in Northern Greece stood the 
tomb of the hero Olynthos, who gave the 
river its name. In the spring months of 
Anthesterion and Elaphebolion the river rises 
and an immense shoal of fish pass from the 
lake of Bolbe to the river of Olynthiakos, 
and the inhabitants round about can lay in 
a store of salt fish for all their needs. "And 
it is a wonderful fact that they never pass by 
the monument of Olynthus. They say that 

1 Athen. VIII, ii, 3341 See my Prolegomena, p. 54. 



156 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

formerly the people used to perform the 
accustomed rites to the dead in the month 
Elaphebolion, but now they do them in Anthe- 
sterion, and that on this account the fish come 
up in those months only in which they are 
wont to do honour to the dead." The river 
is the chief source of the food-supply, so to 
send fish, not seeds and flowers, is the dead 
hero's business. 

Peisistratos was not so daring as Cleis- 
thenes. We do not hear that he disturbed 
or diminished any local cult. He did not at- 
tempt to move the Anthesteria with its ghost 
cult ; he only added a new festival, and trusted 
to its recent splendour gradually to efface 
the old. And at this new festival he cele- 
brated the deeds of other heroes, not local 
but of greater splendour and of wider fame. 
If he did not bring Homer to Athens, he at 
least gave Homer official recognition. Now 
to bring Homer to Athens was like opening 
the eyes of the blind. 

Cicero, in speaking of the influence of 
Peisistratos on literature, says : " He is said 
to have arranged in their present order the 
works of Homer, which were previously in 



FROM RITUAL TO ART 157 

confusion." He arranged them not for what 
we should call " publication," but for public 
recitation, and another tradition adds that he 
or his son fixed the order of their recitation 
at the great festival of "All Athens," the 
Panathenaia. Homer, of course, was kno^^Tl 
before in Athens in a scrappy way; now he 
was publicly, officially promulgated. It is pro- 
bable, though not certain, that the " Homer " 
which Peisistratos prescribed for recitation 
at the Panathenaia was just our Iliad and 
Odyssey, and that the rest of the heroic cycle, 
all the remaining " slices " from the heroic 
banquet, remained as material for dithjTambs 
and dramas. The " tyranny " of Peisistra- 
tos and his son lasted from 560 to 501 b.c. ; 
tradition said that the first dramatic contest 
was held in the new theatre built by Peisis- 
tratos in 535 B.C., when Thespis won the prize. 
iEschylus was born in 525 B.C. ; his first play, 
with a plot from the heroic saga, the Seven 
Against Thebes, was produced in 467 b.c. 
It all came very swiftly, the shift from the 
dithjTamb as Spring Song to the heroic 
drama was accomplished in something much 
under a century. Its effect on the whole of 
Greek life and religion — ^nay, on the whole 



158 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

of subsequent literature and thought— was 
incalculable. Let us try to see why. 

Homer was the outcome, the expression, 
of an " heroic " age. When we use the word 
" heroic " we think vaguely of something 
brave, brilliant, splendid, something exciting 
and invigorating. A hero is to us a man of 
clear, vivid personality, valiant, generous, 
perhaps hot-tempered, a good friend and a 
good hater. The word '' hero " calls up such 
figures as Achilles, Patroklos, Hector, figures 
of passion and adventure. Now such figures, 
with their special virtues, and perhaps their 
proper vices, are not confined to Homer. 
They occur in any and every heroic age. We 
are beginning now to see that heroic poetry, 
heroic characters, do not arise from any 
peculiarity of race or even of geographical 
surroundings, but, given certain social con- 
ditions, they may, and do, appear anywhere 
and at any time. The world has seen several 
heroic ages, though it is, perhaps, doubtful if 
it will ever see another. What, then, are the 
conditions that produce an heroic age ? and 
why was this influx of heroic poetry, coming 
just when it did, of such immense influence 



FROM RITUAL TO ART 159 

on, and importance to, the development of 
Greek dramatic art ? Why had it power to 
change the old, stiff, ritual dithyramb into 
the new and living drama ? Why, above all 
things, did the democratic tyrant Peisistratos 
so eagerly welcome it to Athens ? 

In the old ritual dance the individual was 
nothing, the choral band, the group, every- 
thing, and in this it did but reflect primitive 
tribal life. Now in the heroic saga the 
individual is everything, the mass of the 
people, the tribe, or the group, are but a 
shadowy background which throws up the 
brilliant, clear-cut personality into a more 
vivid light. The epic poet is all taken up 
with what he called klea andron, "glorious 
deeds of men," of individual heroes; and 
what these heroes themselves ardently long 
and pray for is just this glory, this per- 
sonal distinction, this deathless fame for 
their great deeds. When the armies meet 
it is the leaders who fight in single combat. 
These glorious heroes are for the most part 
kings, but not kings in the old sense, not 
hereditary kings bound to the soil and re- 
sponsible for its fertility. Rather they are 
leaders in war and adventure; the homage 



160 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

paid them is a personal devotion for personal 
character; the leader must win his followers 
by bravery, he must keep them by personal 
generosity. Moreover, heroic wars are oft en - 
est not tribal feuds consequent on tribal 
raids, more often they arise from personal 
grievances, personal jealousies; the siege of 
Troy is undertaken not because the Trojans 
have raided the cattle of the Achaeans, but 
because a single Trojan, Paris, has carried 
off Helen, a single Achaean's wife. 

Another noticeable point is that in heroic 
poems scarcely any one is safely and quietly 
at home. The heroes are fighting in far-off 
lands or voyaging by sea; hence we hear 
little of tribal and even of family ties. The 
real centre is not the hearth, but the leader's 
tent or ship. Local ties that bind to par- 
ticular spots of earth are cut, local differences 
fall into abeyance, a sort of cosmopolitanism, 
a forecast of pan-Hellenism, begins to arise. 
And a curious point — all this is reflected in 
the gods. We hear scarcely anything of 
local cults, nothing at all of local magical 
maypoles and Carryings-out of Winter and 
Bringings-in of Summer, nothing whatever 
of " Suppers " for the souls, or even of worship 



FROM RITUAL TO ART 161 

paid to particular local heroes. A man's 
ghost when he dies does not abide in its grave 
ready to rise at springtime and help the seeds 
to sprout; it goes to a remote and shadowy- 
region, a common, pan-Hellenic Hades. And 
so with the gods themselves; they are cut 
clean from earth and from the local bits of 
earth out of which they grew — the sacred trees 
and holy stones and rivers and still holier 
beasts. There is not a holy Bull to be found 
in all Olympus, only figures of men, bright 
and vivid and intensely personal, like so many 
glorified, transfigured Homeric heroes. 

In a word, the heroic spirit, as seen in 
heroic poetry, is the outcome of a society cut 
loose from its roots, of a time of migi-ations, 
of the shifting of populations.^ But more is 
needed, and just this something more the 
age that gave birth to Homer had. We know 
now that before the northern people whom 
we call Greeks, and who called themselves 
Hellenes, came down into Greece, there had 
grown up in the basin of the JEgesm a civiliza- 
tion splendid, wealthy, rich in art and already 
ancient, the civilization that has come to 
light at Troy, Mycenae, Tiryns, and most of 
1 Thanks to Mr. H. M. Chadwick's Heroic Age (1912). 



162 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

all in Crete. The adventurers from North and 
South came upon a land rich in spoils, where a 
chieftain with a band of hardy followers might 
sack a city and dower himself and his men with 
sudden wealth. Such conditions, such a con- 
tact of new and old, of settled splendour beset 
by unbridled adventure, go to the making of 
a heroic age, its virtues and its vices, its obvious 
beauty and its hidden ugliness. In settled, 
social conditions, as has been well remarked, 
" most of the heroes would sooner or later 
have found themselves in prison." 

A heroic age, happily for society, cannot 
last long; it has about it while it does last 
a sheen ol passing and pathetic splendour, 
such as that which lights up the figure of 
Achilles, but it is bound to fade and pass. 
A heroic society is almost a contradiction in 
terms. Heroism is for individuals. If a 
society is to go on at all it must strike its 
roots deep in some soil, native or alien. The 
bands of adventurers must disband and i?o 
home, or settle anew on the land they have 
conquered. They must beat their swords 
into plowshares and their spears into 
pruning-hooks. Their gallant, glorious leader 
must become a sober, home-keeping, law- 



FROM RITUAL TO ART 163 

giving and law-abiding king; his followers 
must abate their individuality and make it 
subserve a common social purpose. 

Athens, in her sheltered peninsula, lay 
somewhat outside the tide of migrations and 
heroic exploits. Her population and that of 
all Attica remained comparatively unchanged ; 
her kings are kings of the stationary, law- 
abiding, state-reforming type ; Cecrops, Erech- 
theus, Theseus, are not splendid, flashing, 
all-conquering figures like Achilles and Aga- 
memnon. Athens might, it would seem, but 
for the coming of Homer, have lain stagnant 
in a backwater of conservatism, content to 
go on chanting her traditional Spring Songs 
year by year. It is a wonderful thing that 
this city of Athens, beloved of the gods, should 
have been saved from the storm and stress, 
sheltered from what might have broken, even 
shattered her, spared the actual horrors of a 
heroic age, yet given heroic poetry, given the 
clear wine -cup poured when the ferment was 
over. She drank of it deep and was glad and 
rose up like a giant refreshed. 

We have seen that to make up a heroic age 
there must be two factors, the new and the 



164 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

old ; the young, vigorous, warlike people must 
seize on, appropriate, in part assimilate, an 
old and wealthy civilization. It almost seems 
as if we might go a step farther, and say 
that for every great movement in art or 
literature we must have the same conditions, 
a contact of new and old, of a new spirit 
seizing or appropriated by an old established 
order. Anyhow for Athens the historical fact 
stands certain. The amazing development 
of the fifth-century drama is just this, the 
old vessel of the ritual Dithyramb filled to 
the full with the new wine of the heroic saga ; 
and it would seem that it was by the hand 
of Peisistratos, the great democratic tyrant, 
that the new wine was outpoured. 

Such were roughly the outside conditions 
under which the drama of art grew out of 
the dromena of ritual. The racial secret of 
the individual genius of ^schylus and the 
forgotten men who preceded him we cannot 
hope to touch. We can only try to see the 
conditions in which they worked and mark 
the splendid new material that lay to their 
hands. Above all things we can see that this 
material, these Homeric saga, were just fitted 



FROM RITUAL TO ART 165 

to give the needed impulse to art. The 
Homeric saga had for an Athenian poet just 
that remoteness from immediate action which, 
as we have seen, is the essence of art as 
contrasted with ritual. 

Tradition says that the Athenians fined the 
dramatic poet Phnmichus for choosing as 
the plot of one of his tragedies the Taking 
of Miletus. Probably the fine was inflicted 
for political party reasons, and had nothing 
whatever to do with the question of whether 
the subject was " artistic " or not. But the 
story may stand, and indeed was later under- 
stood to be, a sort of allegory as to the attitude 
of art towards life. To understand and still 
more to contemplate life you must come out 
from the choral dance of life and stand 
apart. In the case of one's own sorrows, be 
they national or personal, this is all but im- 
possible. We can ritualize our sorrows, but 
not turn them into tragedies. We cannot 
stand back far enough to see the picture ; we 
want to be doing, or at least lamenting. In 
the case of the sorrows of others this standing 
back is all too easy. We not only bear their 
pain vath easy stoicism, but we picture it 
dispassionately at a safe distance; we feel 



106 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

about rather than with it. The trouble is that 
we do not feel enough. Such was the attitude 
of the Athenian towards the doings and 
sufferings of Homeric heroes. They stood 
towards them as spectators. These heroes 
had not the intimate sanctity of home-grown 
things, but they had sufficient traditional 
sanctity to make them acceptable as the 
material of drama. 

Adequately sacred though they were, they 
were yet free and flexible. It is impiety 
to alter the myth of your local hero, it is 
impossible to recast the myth of your local 
daemon — that is fixed forever — his conflict, 
his agon, his death, his pathos, his Resurrection 
and its heralding, his Epiphany. But the 
stories of Agamemnon and Achilles, though 
at home these heroes were local daimones, 
have already been variously told in their 
wanderings from place to place, and you can 
mould them more or less to your will. ]\Iore- 
over, these figures are already personal and 
individual, not representative puppets, mere 
functionaries like the May Queen and Winter ; 
they have life-histories of their own, never 
quite to be repeated. It is in this blend of the 
individual and the general, the personal and 



FROM RITUAL TO ART 167 

the universal, that one element at least of all 
really great art will be found to lie ; and just 
here at Athens we get a glimpse of the moment 
of fusion; we see a definite historical reason 
why and how the universal in dromeria came 
to include the particular in drama. We see, 
moreover, how in place of the old monotonous 
plots, intimately connected with actual practi- 
cal needs, we get material cut off from imme- 
diate reactions, seen as it were at the right 
distance, remote yet not too remote. We 
see, in a word, how a ritual enacted year 
by 3'ear became a work of art that was a 
" possession for ever." 

Possibly in the mind of the reader there 
may have been for some time a growing 
discomfort, an inarticulate protest. All this 
about dromena and drama and dithyrambs, 
bears and bulls. May Queens and Tree- Spirits, 
even about Homeric heroes, is all very well, 
curious and perhaps even in a way interesting, 
but it is not at all what he expected, still less 
what he wants. When he bought a book 
^vith the odd incongruous title. Ancient Art 
and Ritual, he was prepared to put up with 
some remarks on the artistic side of ritual. 



168 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

but he did expect to be told something about 
what the ordinary man calls art, that is, 
statues and pictures. Greek drama is no 
doubt a form of ancient art, but acting is not 
to the reader's mind the chief of arts. Nay, 
more, he has heard doubts raised lately — and 
he shares them — ^as to whether acting and 
dancing, about which so much has been said, 
are properly speaking arts at all. Now about 
painting and sculpture there is no doubt. 
Let us come to business. 

To a business so beautiful and pleasant as 
Greek sculpture we shall gladly come, but a 
word must first be said to explain the reason 
of our long delay. The main contention of 
the present book is that ritual and art have, 
in emotion towards life, a common root, and 
further, that primitive art develops normally, 
at least in the case of the drama, straight out 
of ritual. The nature of that primitive ritual 
from which the drama arose is not very fami- 
liar to English readers. It has been necessary 
to stress its characteristics. Almost every- 
where, all over the world, it is found that 
primitive ritual consists, not in prayer and 
praise and sacrifice, but in mimetic dancing. 
But it is in Greece, and perhaps Greece only, 



FROM RITUAL TO ART 169 

in the religion of Dionysos, that we can 
actually trace, if dimly, the transition steps 
that led from dance to drama, from ritual to 
art. It was, therefore, of the first importance 
to realize the nature of the dithyramb from 
which the drama rose, and so far as might be 
to mark the cause and circumstances of the 
transition. 

Leaving the drama, we come in the next 
chapter to Sculpture ; and here, too, we shall 
see how closely art was shadowed by that 
ritual out of which she sprang. 



CHAPTER VI 

GREEK SCULPTURE : THE PANATHENAIC 
FRIEZE AND THE APOLLO BELVEDERE 

In passing from the drama to Sculpture ^ve 
make a great leap. We pass from the living 
thing, the dance or the play acted by real 
people, the thing done, whether as ritual or 
art, whether dromenon or drama, to the thing 
made, cast in outside material rigid form, a 
thing that can be looked at again and again, 
but the making of which can never actually 
be re-lived whether by artist or spectator. 

Moreover, we come to a clear threefold dis- 
tinction and division hitherto neglected. We 
must at last sharply differentiate the artist, 
the work of art, and the spectator. The artist 
may, and usually indeed does, become the 
spectator of his own work, but the spectator 
is not the artist. The work of art is, once 
executed, forever distinct both from artist 
and spectator. In the primitive choral dance 
all three — artist, work of art, spectator — were 
170 



GREEK SCULPTURE 171 

fused, or rather not yet differentiated. Hand- 
books on art are apt to begin with the dis- 
cussion of rude decorative patterns, and after 
leading up through sculpture and painting, 
something vague is said at the end about the 
primitiveness of the ritual dance. But his- 
torically and also genetically or logically the 
dance in its inchoateness, its undifferentiated- 
ness, comes first. It has in it a larger element 
of emotion, and less of presentation. It is this 
inchoateness, this undifferentiatedness. that, 
apart from historical fact, makes us feel sure 
that logically the dance is primitive. 

To illustrate the meaning of Greek sculpture 
and show its close affinity with ritual, we 
shall take two instances, perhaps the best- 
known of those that survive, one of them in 
relief, the other in the round, the Panathenaic 
frieze of the Parthenon at Athens and the 
Apollo Belvedere, and we shall take them in 
chronological order. As the actual frieze and 
the statue cannot be before us, we shall discuss 
no technical questions of style or treatment, 
but simply ask how they came to be, what 
human need do they express. The Parthenon 
frieze is in the British Museum, the Apollo 



172 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

Belvedere is in the Vatican at Rome, but is 
readily accessible in casts or photographs. The 
outlines given in Figs. 5 and 6 can of course 
only serve to recall subject-matter and design. 

The Panathenaic frieze once decorated the 
cella or innermost shrine of the Parthenon, 
the temple of the Maiden Goddess Athena. 
It twined like a ribbon round the brow of the 
building and thence it was torn by Lord 
Elgin and brought home to the British 
Museum as a national trophy, for the price 
of a few hundred pounds of coffee and yards 
of scarlet cloth. To realize its meaning we 
must always think it back into its place. 
Inside the cella, or shrine, dwelt the goddess 
herself, her great image in gold and ivory; 
outside the shrine was sculptured her worship 
by the whole of her people. For the frieze is 
nothing but a great ritual procession trans- 
lated into stone, the Panathenaic procession, 
or procession of all the Athenians, of all 
Athens, in honour of the goddess who was but 
the city incarnate, Athena. 

" A wonder enthroned on the hills and the sea, 
A maiden crowned with a fourfold glory, 



GREEK SCULPTURE 173 

That none from the pride of her head may 

rend; 
Violet and oHve leaf, purple and hoary, 
Song- wreath and story the fairest of fame, 
Flowers that the winter can blast not nor 

bend, 
A hght upon earth as the sun's own flame, 
A name as his name — 
Athens, a praise without end." 

Swinburne : Erechtheus, 141. 

Sculptural Art, at least in this instance, 
comes out of ritual, has ritual as its subject, 
is embodied ritual. The reader perhaps at 
this point may suspect that he is being juggled 
with, that, out of the thousands of Greek 
reliefs that remain to us, just this one instance 
has been selected to bolster up the writer's 
art and ritual theory. He has only to walk 
through any museum to be convinced at once 
that the author is playing quite fair. Practi- 
cally the whole of the reliefs that remain to 
us from the archaic period, and a very large 
proportion of those at later date, when they 
do not represent heroic mythology, are ritual 
reliefs, "votive" reliefs as we call them; that 
is, prayers or praises translated into stone. 



174 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

Of the choral dance we have heard much, 
of the procession but httle, yet its ritual 
importance was great. In religion to-day 
the dance is dead save for the dance of the 
choristers before the altar at Seville. But the 
procession lives on, has even taken to itself 

E 



Preseatat^og of the. VejoloS ■ 




Fig. 3. 

new life. It is a means of bringing masses 
of people together, of ordering them and 
co-ordinating them. It is a means for the 
magical spread of supposed good influence, 
of '' grace." Witness the " Beating of the 
Bounds" and the frequent processions of the 
Blessed Sacrament in Roman Catholic lands. 



GREEK SCULPTURE 



175 



The Queen of the May and the Jack-in-the- 
Green still go from house to house. Now-a- 
days it is to collect pence; once it was to 



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Pi>-txtKen.a4c ProcaSSion. . 
Fig. 4. 

diffuse ^'' grace " and increase. We remember 
the procession of the holy Bull at Magnesia 
and the holy Bear at Saghalien (pp. 92-100). 



176 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

What, then, was the object of the Pan- 
athenaic procession ? It was first, as its name 
indicates, a procession that brought all Athens 
together. Its object was social and political, 
to express the unity of Athens, Ritual in 
primitive times is always social, collective. 

The arrangement of the procession is shown 
in Figs. 3 and 4 (pp. 174, 175). In Fig. 3 we see 
the procession as it were in real life, just as it 
is about to enter the temple and the presence 
of the Twelve Gods. These gods are shaded 
black because in reality invisible. Fig. 4 is a 
diagram showing the position of the various 
parts of the procession in the sculptural 
frieze. At the west end of the temple the 
procession begins to form : the youths of 
Athens are mounting their horses. It di~ 
vides, as it needs must, into two halves, 
one sculptured on the north, one on the 
south side of the cella. After the throng of 
the cavalry getting denser and denser we 
come to the chariots, next the sacrificial 
animals, sheep and restive cows, then the 
instruments of sacrifice, flutes and lyres and 
baskets and trays for offerings; men who 
carry blossoming olive-boughs ; maidens with 
water- vessels and drinking-cups. The whole 



GREEK SCULPTURE 177 

tumult of the gathering is marshalled and at 
last met and, as it were, held in check, by a 
band of magistrates who face the procession 
just as it enters the presence of the twelve 
seated gods, at the east end. The whole body \^ 
politic of the gods has come do^\Ti to feast |! 
with the whole body politic of Athens and her ; 
allies, of whom these gods are but the pro- 
jection and reflection. The gods are there ^ I 
together because man is collectively assembled. 
The great procession culminates in a sacrifice 
and a communal feast, a sacramental feast like 
that on the flesh of the holy Bull at Magnesia. 
The Panathenaia was a high festival including 
rites and ceremonies of diverse dates, an 
armed dance of immemorial antiquity that 
may have dated from the days when Athens 
was subject to Crete, and a recitation ordered 
by Peisistratos of the poems of Homer 

Some theorists have seen n art only an 
extension of the " play instinct," just a libera- 
tion of superfluous vitality and energies, as it 
were a rehearsing for life. This is not our 
view, but into all art, in so far as it is a cutting 
off of motor reactions, there certainly enters 
an element of recreation. It is interesting 



178 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

to note that to the Greek mind rehgion was 
specially connected with the notion rather 
of a festival than a fast. Thucydides ^ is 
assuredly by nature no reveller, yet religion 
is to him mainly a " rest from toil." He 
makes Perikles say : " Moreover, we have 
provided for our spirit by many opportunities 
of recreation, by the celebration of games 
and sacrifices throughout the year." To 
the anonymous writer known as the " Old 
Oligarch " the main gist of religion appears 
to be a decorous social enjoyment. In 
easy aristocratic fashion he rejoices that 
religious ceremonials exist to provide for the 
less well-to-do citizens suitable amusements 
that they would otherwise lack. " As to 
sacrifices and sanctuaries and festivals and 
precincts, the People, knowing that it is im- 
possible for each man individually to sacrifice 
and feast and have sacrifices and an ample 
and beautiful city, has discovered by what 
means he may enjoy these privileges." 

In the procession of the Panathenaia all 
Athens was gathered together, but — and this 
is important — for a special purpose, more 
1 II. 38. 



GREEK SCULPTURE 



179 



primitive than any great political or social 
union. Happily this purpose is clear; it is 
depicted in the central slab of the east end of 
the frieze (Fig. 5). A priest is there repre- 
sented receiving from the hands of a boy a 
great peplos or robe. It is the sacred robe of 
Athena woven for her and embroidered by 
young Athenian maidens and offered to her 




Fig. 5. 

every five years. The great gold and ivory 
statue in the Parthenon itself had no need of 
a robe ; she would scarcely have known what 
to do with one; her raiment was already of 
wrought gold, she carried helmet and spear 
and shield. But there was an ancient image 
of Athena, an old Madonna of the people, 
fashioned before Athena became a warrior 
maiden. This image w^as rudely hewn in 
wood, it was dressed and decked doll-fashion 



180 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

like a May Queen, and to her the great peplos 
was dedicated. The peplos was hoisted as a 
sail on the Panathenaic ship, and this ship 
Athena had borrowed from Dionysos himself, 
who went every spring in procession in a ship- 
car on wheels to open the season for sailing. 
To a seafaring people like the Athenians the 
opening of the sailing season was all-important, 
and naturally began not at midsummer but 
in spring. 

The sacred peplos, or robe, takes us back 
to the old days when the spirit of the year 
and the " luck " of the people was bound up 
with a rude image. The life of the year died 
out each year and had to be renewed. To 
make a new image was expensive and incon- 
venient, so, with primitive economy it was 
decided that the life and luck of the image 
should be renewed by re-dressing it, by 
offering to it each year a new robe. We 
remember (p. 60) how in Thuringia the new 
puppet wore the shirt of the old and thereby 
new life was passed from one to the other. 
But behind the old image we can get to a 
stage still earlier, when there was at the 
Panathenaia no image at all, only a yearly 
maypole; a bough hung with ribbons and 



GREEK SCULPTURE 181 

cakes and fruits and the like. A bough was 
cut from the sacred ohve tree of Athens, 
called the Moria or Fate Tree. It was bound 
about with fillets and hung with fruit and 
nuts and, in the festival of the Panathenaia, 
they carried it up to the Acropolis to give to 
Athena PoZ/a5, "Her-of-the-City," and as they 
went they sang the old Eiresione song (p. 114). 
Polias is but the city, the Polis incarnate. 

This Moria, or Fate Tree, was the very 
life of Athens; the life of the olive w^hich 
fed her and lighted her was the very life of 
the city. When the Persian host sacked the 
Acropolis they burnt the holy olive, and it 
seemed that all was over. But next day it 
put forth a new shoot and the people knew 
that the city's life still lived. Sophocles^ 
sang of the glory of the wondrous life tree 
of Athens : 

" The untended, the self-planted, self-defended 
from the foe, 

Sea-gray, children-nurturing olive tree that 
here dehghts to grow. 

None may take nor touch nor harm it, head- 
strong youth nor age gro^Ti bold. 

1 Oed. Col 694, trans. D. S. MacCoU. 



182 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

For the round of Morian Zeus has been its 
watcher from of old; 

He beholds it, and, Athene, thy own sea- 
gray eyes behold." 

The holy tree carried in procession is, like 
the image of Athena, made of olive-wood, 
just the incarnate life of Athens ever 
renewed. 

The Panathenaia was not, like the Dithy- 
ramb, a spring festival. It took place in 
July at the height of the summer heat, when 
need for rain was the greatest. But the 
month Hecatombaion, in which it was cele- 
brated, was the first month of the Athenian 
year and the day of the festival was the 
birthday of the goddess. When the goddess 
became a war-goddess, it was fabled that 
she was born in Olympus, and that she sprang 
full grown from her father's head in glittering 
armour. But she was really born on earth, 
and the day of her birth was the birthday 
of every earthborn goddess, the day of the 
beginning of the new year, with its returning 
life. When men only observe the actual 
growth of new green life from the ground, 
this birthday will be in spring; when they 
begin to know that the seasons depend on 



GREEK SCULPTURE 183 

the sun, or when the heat of the sun causes 
great need of rain, it will be at midsummer, 
at the solstice, or in northern regions where 
men fear to lose the sun in midwinter, as with 
us. The frieze of the Parthenon is, then, but 
a primitive festival translated into stone, a 
rite frozen to a monument. 

Passing over a long space of time we come 
to our next illustration, the Apollo Belvedere 
(Fig. 6). 

It might seem that here at last we have 
nothing primitive; here we have art pure 
and simple, ideal art utterly cut loose from 
ritual, " art for art's sake." Yet in this Apollo 
Belvedere, this product of late and accom- 
plished, even decadent art, we shall see most 
clearly the intimate relation of art and ritual ; 
we shall, as it were, walk actually across that 
transition bridge of ritual which leads from 
actual life to art. 

The date of this famous Apollo cannot 
be fixed, but it is clearly a copy of a type 
belonging to the fourth century B.C. The 
poise of the figure is singular and, till its intent 
is grasped, unsatisfactory. Apollo is caught in 
swift motion but seems, as he stands delicately 
poised, to be about to fly rather than to run. 




The Apollo Belvedere 
Fig. 6. 



184 



GREEK SCULPTURE 185 

He stands tiptoe and in a moment will have 
left the earth. The Greek sculptor's genius was 
all focussed, as we shall presently see, on the 
human figure and on the mastery of its many 
possibilities of movement and action. Greek 
statues can roughly be dated by the way they 
stand. At first, in the archaic period, they 
stand firmly planted with equal weight on 
either foot, the feet close together. Then 
one foot is advanced, but the weight still 
equally di\'ided, an almost impossible position. 
Next, the weight is thrown on the right foot ; 
and the left knee is bent. This is of all posi- 
tions the loveliest for the human body. We 
allow it to women, forbid it to men save to 
"aesthetes." If the back numbers of Punch 
be examined for the figure of " Postlethwaite" 
it will be seen that he always stands in this 
characteristic relaxed pose. 

When the sculptor has mastered the possible 
he bethinks him of the impossible. He will 
render the human body flying. It may have 
been the accident of a mythological subject 
that first suggested the motive. Leochares, 
a famous artist of the fourth century B.C., 
made a group of Zeus in the form of an eagle 
carrying off Ganymede. A replica of the 



186 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

group is preserved in the Vatican, and should 
stand for comparison near the Apollo. We 
have the same tiptoe poise, the figure just 
about to leave the earth. Again, it is not a 
dance, but a flight. This poise is suggestive 
to us because it marks an art cut loose, as 
far as may be, from earth and its realities, 
even its rituals. 

What is it that Apollo is doing? The 
question and suggested answers have occupied 
many treatises. There is only one answer : 
We do not know. It w^as at first thought 
that the Apollo had just drawn his bow and 
shot an arrow. This suggestion was made 
to account for the pose ; but that, as we have 
seen, is sufficiently explained b}^ the flight- 
motive. Another possible solution is that 
Apollo brandishes in his uplifted hand the 
aegis, or goatskin shield, of Zeus. Another 
suggestion is that he holds as often a lustral, 
or laurel bough, that he is figured as Daplme- 
phoros, " Laurel-Bearer." 

We do not know if the Belvedere Apollo 
carried a laurel, but we do know that it was 
of the very essence of the god to be a Laurel- 
Bearer. That, as we shall see in a moment, 
he, like Dionysos, arose in part out of a rite, 



GREEK SCULPTURE 187 

a rite of Laurel-Bearing — a Daphnephoria, 
We have not got clear of ritual yet. When 
Pausanias,^ the ancient traveller, whose note- 
book is our chief source about these early 
festivals, came to Thebes he saw a hill sacred 
to Apollo, and after describing the temple on 
the hill he says : 

" The following custom is still, I know, 
observed at Thebes. A boy of distinguished 
family and himself well-looking and strong is 
made the priest of Apollo, for the space of a 
year. The title given him is Laurel-Bearer 
(Daphnephoros), for these boys wear WTcaths 
made of laurel." 

We know for certain now what these yearly 
priests are : they are the Kings of the Year, 
the Spirits of the Year, May-Kings, Jacks-o'- 
the-Green. The name given to the boy is 
enough to show he carried a laurel branch, 
though Pausanias only mentions a wreath. 
Another ancient writer gives us more details.'^ 
He says in describing the festival of the 
Laurel-Bearing : 

" They wreathe a pole of olive wood with 
laurel and various flowers. On the top is 
1 IX, 10, 4. 2 See j^y Themis, p. 438. 



188 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

fitted a bronze globe from which they suspend 
smaller ones. Midway round the pole they 
place a lesser globe, binding it with purple 
fillets, but the end of the pole is decked with 
saffron. By the topmost globe they mean 
the sun, to which they actually compare 
Apollo. The globe beneath this is the moon ; 
the smaller globes hung on are the stars and 
constellations, and the fillets are the course 
of the year, for they make them 365 in 
number. The Daphnephoria is headed by a 
boy, both whose parents are alive, and his 
nearest male relation carries the filleted pole. 
The Laurel-Bearer himself, who follows next, 
holds on to the laurel ; he has his hair hanging 
loose, he wears a golden wreath, and he is 
dressed out in a splendid robe to his feet and 
he wears light shoes. There follows him a band 
of maidens holding out boughs before them, 
to enforce the supplication of the hymns." 

This is the most elaborate maypole cere- 
mony that we know of in ancient times. The 
globes representing sun and moon show us 
that we have come to a time when men know 
that the fruits of the earth in due season 
depended on the heavenly bodies. The year 



GREEK SCULPTURE 189 

with its 365 days is a Sun- Year. Once this 
Sun- Year established and we find that the times 
of the solstices, midwinter and midsummer 
became as, or even more, important than the 
spring itself. The date of the Daphnephoria 
is not known. 

At Delphi itself, the centre of Apollo- worship, 
there was a festival called the Stepteria, or 
festival " of those who make the wreathes," 
in wliich " mystery " a Christian Bishop, St. 
Cyprian, tells us he was initiated. In far-off 
Tempe — that wonderful valley that is still the 
greenest spot in stony, barren Greece, and 
where the laurel trees still cluster — there was 
an altar, and near it a laurel tree. The story 
went that Apollo had made himself a crown 
from this very laurel, and taking in his hand 
a branch of this same laurel, i. e. as Laurel- 
Bearer, had come to Delphi and taken over 
the oracle. 

" And to this day the people of Delphi 
send high-born boys in procession there. 
And they, when they have reached Tempe 
and made a splendid sacrifice return back, 
after wearing themselves wreaths from the 
very laurel from which the god made himself 
a wreath." 



190 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

We are inclined to think of the Greeks as 
a people apt to indulge in the singular prac- 
tice of wearing wreaths in public, a practice 
among us confined to children on their 
birthdays and a few eccentric people on their 
wedding days. We forget the intensely 
practical purport of the custom. The ancient 
Greeks wore wreaths and carried boughs, not 
because they were artistic or poetical, but 
because they were ritualists, that they might 
bring back the spring and carry in the summer. 
The Greek bridegroom to-day, as well as the 
Greek bride, wears a wreath, that his marriage 
may be the beginning of new life, that his 
'' wife may be as the fruitful vine, and his 
children as the olive branches round about 
his table." And our children to-day, though 
tliey do not know it, wear wreaths on their 
birthdays because with each new year their 
life is re-born. 

Apollo then, was, like Dionysos, King of 
the May and — saving his presence — ^Jack-in- 
the-Green. The god manifestly arose out of the 
rite. For a moment let us see how he arose. 
It will be remembered that in a previous 
chapter (p. 70) we spoke of '' personification." 



GREEK SCULPTURE 191 

We think of the god Apollo as an abstraction, 
an unreal thing, perhaps as a " false god." 
The god Apollo does not, and never did, exist. 
He is an idea — a thing made by the imagina- 
tion. But primitive man does not deal with 
abstractions, does not worship them. What 
happens is, as we saw (p. 71), something like 
this : Year by year a boy is chosen to carry the 
laurel, to bring in the May, and later year by 
year a puppet is made. It is a different boy 
each year, carrying a different laurel branch. 
And yet in a sense it is the same boy; he is 
always the Laurel-Bearer — " Daphnephoros," 
always the " Luck " of the village or city. 
Tins Laurel -Bearer, the same yesterday, to- 
day, and forever, is the stuff of which the 
god is made. The god arises from the rite, 
he is gradually detached from the rite, and 
as soon as he gets a life and being of his own, 
apart from the rite, he is a first stage in art, 
a work of art existing in the mind, gradually 
detached from even the faded action of ritual, 
and later to be the model of the actual work 
of art, the copy in stone. 

The stages, it would seem, are : actual life 
with its motor reactions, the ritual copy of 
life with its faded reactions, the image of the 



192 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

god projected by the rite, and, last, the copy 
of that image, the work of art. 

We see now why in the history of all ages 
and every place art is what is called the " hand- 
maid of religion." She is not really the 
" handmaid " at all. She springs straight 
out of the rite, and her first outward leap is 
the image of the god. Primitive art in 
Greece, in Egypt, in Assyria,^ represents either 
rites, processions, sacrifices, magical cere- 
monies, embodied prayers; or else it repre- 
sents the images of the gods who spring from 
those rites. Track any god right home, and 
you will find him lurking in a ritual sheath, 
from which he slowly emerges, first as a 
dcemon, or spirit, of the year, then as a full- 
blown divinity. 

In Chapter II we saw how the dromenon 
gave birth to the drama, how, bit by bit, out 
of the chorus of dancers some dancers w^ith- 

^ It is now held by some and good authorities that the 
prehistoric paintings of cave-dwelling man had also a 
ritual origin ; that is, that the representations of animals 
were intended to act magically, to increase the '* supply 
of the animal or help the hunter to catch him." But, aa 
this question is still pending, I prefer, tempting though 
they are, not to use prehistoric paintings as material for 
my argument. 



GREEK SCULPTURE 193 

drew and became spectators sitting apart, and 
on the other hand others of the dancers drew 
apart on to the stage and presented to the 
spectators a spectacle, a thing to be looked 
at, not joined in. And we saw how in this 
spectacular mood, this being cut loose from 
immediate action, lay the very essence of the 
artist and the art-lover. Now in the drama 
of Thespis there was at first, we are told, but 
one actor; later ^Eschylus added a second. 
It is clear who this actor, this protagonist or 
'' first contender " was, the one actor with 
the double part, who was Death to be carried 
out and Summer to be carried in. He was 
the Bough-Bearer, the only possible actor 
in the one-part play of the renewal of life 
and the return of the year. 

The May-King, the leader of the choral 
dance gave birth not only to the first actor 
of the drama, but also, as we have just seen, 
to the god, be he Dionysos or be he Apollo ; 
and this figure of the god thus imagined out 
of the year-spirit VN^as perhaps more fertile 
for art than even the protagonist of the 
drama. It may seem strange to us that a 
god should rise up out of a dance or a pro- 



194 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

cession, because dances and processions are 
not an integral part of our national life, and 
do not call up any very strong and instant 
emotion. The old instinct lingers, it is true, 
and emerges at critical moments; when a 
king dies we form a great procession to carry 
him to the grave, but we do not dance. We 
have court balls, and these with their stately 
ordered ceremonials are perhaps the last 
survival of the genuinely civic dance, but a 
court ball is not given at a king's funeral nor 
in honour of a god. 

But to the Greek the god and the dance 
were never quite sundered. It almost seems 
as if in the minds of Greek poets and philo- 
sophers there lingered some dim half -conscious 
remembrance that some of these gods at 
least actually came out of the ritual dance. 
Thus, Plato, ^ in treating of the importance 
of rhythm in education says : " The gods, 
pitying the toilsome race of men, have ap- 
pointed the sequence of religious festivals to 
give them times of rest, and have given them 
the Muses and Apollo, the Muse-Leader, as 
fellow-revellers." 

*' The young of all animals," he goes on to 
1 Laios, 653. 



GREEK SCULPTURE 195 

say, "cannot keep quiet, either in body or 
voice. They must leap and skip and over- 
flow with gamesomeness and sheer joy, and 
they must utter all sorts of cries. But 
whereas animals have no perception of 
order or disorder in their motions, the gods 
who have been appointed to men as our 
fellow-dancers have given to us a sense of 
pleasure in rhythm and harmony. And so 
they move us and lead our bands, knitting 
us together with songs and in dances, and 
these we call choruses,^^ Nor was it only 
Apollo and Dionysos who led the dance. 
Athena herself danced the Pyrrhic dance. 
" Our virgin lady," says Plato, " delighting 
in the sports of the dance, thought it not 
meet to dance with empty hands ; she must 
be clothed in full armour, and in this attire 
go through the dance. And youths and 
maidens should in every respect imitate her 
example, honouring the goddess, both with 
a view to the actual necessities of war and 
to the festivals." 

Plato is unconsciously inverting the 
order of things, natural happenings. Take 
the armed dance. There is, first, the " actual 
necessity of war." Men go to war armed, to 



196 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

face actual dangers, and at their head is a 
leader in full armour. That is real life. There 
is then the festal re-enactment of war, when 
the fight is not actually fought, but there is 
an imitation of war. That is the ritual stage, 
the dromenon. Here, too, there is a leader. 
More and more this dance becomes a spectacle, 
less and less an action. Then from the 
periodic dromenon, the ritual enacted year by 
year, emerges an imagined permanent leader ; 
a daemon, or god — ^a Dionysos, an Apollo, an 
Athena. Finally the account of what actually 
happens is thrown into the past, into a 
remote distance, and we have an "aetio- 
logical " myth — a story told to give a cause 
or reason. The whole natural process is 
inverted. 

And last, as already seen, the god, the first 
work of art, the thing unseen, imagined out 
of the ritual of the dance, is cast back into 
the visible world and fixed in space. Can 
we wonder that a classical writer ^ should 
say " the statues of the craftsmen of old times 
are the relics of ancient dancing." That is 
just what they are, rites caught and fixed 
and frozen. "Drawing," says a modern 

1 Aihen, XIV, 26, p. 629. 



GREEK SCULPTURE 197 

critic,^ "is at bottom, like all the arts, a 
kind of gesture, a method of dancing on paper." 
Sculpture, drawing, all the arts save music 
are imitative; so was the dance from which 
they sprang. But imitation is not all, or even 
first. " The dance may be mimetic ; but the 
beauty and verve of the performance, not 
closeness of the imitation impresses; and 
tame additions of truth ^\'ill encumber and 
not convince. The dance must control the 
pantomime." Art, that is, gradually domi- 
nates mere ritual. 

We come to another point. The Greek 
gods as we know them in classical sculpture 
are always imaged in human shape. This 
was not of course always the case with other 
nations. We have seen how among savages 
the totem, that is, the emblem of tribal 
unity, was usually an animal or a plant. We 
have seen how the emotions of the Siberian 
tribe in Saghalien focussed on a bear. The 
savage totem, the Saghalien Bear, is on the 
way to be, but is not quite, a god ; he is not 
personal enough. The Egyptians, and in 

^ D. S. MacColl, "A Year of Post-Impressionism," 
Nbieteenth Century, p. 29. (1912.) 



198 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

part the Assyrians, halted half-way and made 
their gods into monstrous shapes, half -animal, 
half-man, which have their own mystical 
grandeur. But since we are men ourselves, 
feeling human emotion, if our gods are in 
great part projected emotions, the natural 
form for them to take is human shape. 

" Art imitates Nature," says Aristotle, in 
a phrase that has been much misunderstood. 
It has been taken to mean that art is a copy 
or reproduction of natural objects. But by 
" Nature " Aristotle never means the out- 
side world of created things, he means rather 
creative force, what produces, not what has 
been produced. We might almost translate 
the Greek phrase, " Art, like Nature, creates 
things," " Art acts like Nature in producing 
things." These things are, first and fore- 
most, human things, human action. The 
drama, with which Aristotle is so much con- 
cerned, invents human action like real, 
natural action. Dancing " imitates character, 
emotion, action." Art is to Aristotle almost 
wholly bound by the limitations of human 
nature. 

This is, of course, characteristically a Greek 
limitation. " Man is the measure of all 



GREEK SCULPTURE 199 

things," said the old Greek sophist, but 
modern science has taught us another lesson. 
Man may be in the foreground, but the drama 
of man's life is acted out for us against a 
tremendous background of natural happen- 
ings : a background that preceded man and 
will outlast him; and this background pro- 
foundly affects our imagination, and hence 
our art. We moderns are in love with the 
background. Our art is a landscape art. 
The ancient landscape painter could not, or 
would not, trust the background to tell its 
own tale : if he painted a mountain he set up 
a mountain-god to make it real ; if he outlined 
a coast he set human coast-nymphs on its 
shore to make clear the meaning. 

Contrast with this our modern landscape, 
from which bit by bit the nymph has been 
wholly banished. It is the art of a stage, 
without actors, a scene which is all back- 
ground, all suggestion. It is an art given 
us by sheer recoil from science, which has 
dwarfed actual human life almost to imagina- 
tive extinction. 

" Landscape, then, offered to the modem 
imagination a scene empty of definite actors, 



200 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

superhuman or human, that yielded to 
reverie without challenge all that is in a 
moral without a creed, tension or ambush 
of the dark, threat of ominous gloom, the 
relenting and tender return or overwhelming 
outburst of light, the pageantry of clouds 
above a world turned quaker, the monstrous 
weeds of trees outside the town, the sea that 
is obstinately epic still." ^ 



It was to this world of backgrounds that 
men fled, hunted by the sense of their own 
insignificance. 

" Minds the most strictly bound in their 
acts by civil life, in their fancy by the shri- 
velled look of destiny under scientific specula- 
tion, felt on solitary hill or shore those tides 
of the blood stir again that are ruled by the 
sun and the moon and travelled as if to tryst 
where an apparition might take form. Poets 
ordained themselves to this vigil, haunters 
of a desert church, prompters of an elemental 
theatre, listeners in solitary places for intima- 
tions from a spirit in hiding; and painters 
followed the impulse of Wordsworth." 

1 D. S. MacCoU, Nineteenth Century Art, p. 20. (1902.) 



GREEK SCULPTURE 201 

We can only see the strength and weakness 
of Greek sculpture, feel the emotion of which 
it was the utterance, if we realize clearly this 
modern spirit of the background. All great 
modern, and perhaps even ancient, poets are 
touched by it. Drama itself, as Nietzsche 
showed, "hankers after dissolution into mys- 
tery. Shakespeare would occasionally knock 
the back out of the stage with a window 
opening on the ' cloud-capp'd towers.' " But 
Maeterlinck is the best example, because his 
genius is less. He is the embodiment, almost 
the caricature, of a tendency. 

" Maeterlinck sets us figures in the fore- 
ground only to launch us into that limbus. 
The supers jabbering on the scene are there, 
children of presentiment and fear, to make us 
aware of a third, the mysterious one, whose 
name is not on the bills. They come to warn 
us by the nervous check and hurry of their 
gossip of the approach of that background 
power. Omen after omen announces him, 
the talk starts and drops at his approach, a 
door shuts and the thrill of his passage is 
the play." ^ 

1 D. S. MacColl, Of. cif., p. 18. 



202 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

It is, perhaps, the temperaments that are 
most allured and terrified by this art of the 
bogey and the background that most feel 
the need of and best appreciate the calm 
and level, rational dignity of Greek natural- 
ism and especially the naturalism of Greek 
sculpture. 

For it is naturalism, not realism, not 
imitation. By all manner of renunciations 
Greek sculpture is what it is. The material, 
itself marble, is utterly unlike life, it is 
perfectly cold and still, it has neither the 
texture nor the colouring of life. The story 
of Pygmalion who fell in love with the statue 
he had himself sculptured is as false as it is 
tasteless. Greek sculpture is the last form 
of art to incite physical reaction. It is 
remote almost to the point of chill abstraction. 
The statue in the round renounces not only 
human life itself, but all the natural back- 
ground and setting of life. The statues of 
the Greek gods are Olympian in spirit as 
well as subject. They are like the gods of 
Epicurus, cut loose alike from the affairs 
of men, and even the ordered ways of Nature. 
So Lucretius ^ pictures them : 
1 11, 18. 



GREEK SCULPTURE 203 

" The divinity of the gods is revealed and 
their tranquil abodes, which neither winds do 
shake nor clouds drench with rains, nor snow 
congealed by sharp frost harms with hoary 
fall : an ever cloudless ether o'ercanopies them, 
and they laugh with light shed largely around. 
Nature, too, supplies all their wants, and 
nothing ever impairs their peace of mind." 

Greek art moves on through a long course 
of technical accomplishment, of ever-increas- 
ing mastery over materials and methods. 
But this coui'se wx need not follow. For our 
argument the last w^ord is said in the figures 
of these Olympians translated into stone. 
Born of pressing human needs and desires, 
images projected by active and even anxious 
ritual, they pass into the upper air and dwell 
aloof, spectator-like and all but spectral. 



CHAPTER VII 

RITUAL, ART AND LIFE 

In the preceding chapters we have seen 
ritual emerge from the practical doings of 
life. We have noted that in ritual we have 
the beginning of a detachment from practical 
ends; we have watched the merely emotional 
dance develop from an undifferentiated chorus 
into a spectacle performed by actors and 
watched by spectators, a spectacle cut off, 
not only from real life, but also from ritual 
issues ; a spectacle, in a word, that has become 
an end in itself. We have further seen that 
the choral dance is an undifferentiated whole 
which later divides out into three clearly 
articulate parts, the artist, the work of art, 
the spectator or art lover. We are now in a 
position to ask what is the good of all this 
antiquarian enquiry ? Why is it, apart from 
the mere delight of scientific enquiry, import- 
ant to have seen that art arose from ritual ? 

204 



RITUAL, ART AND LIFE 205 

The answer is simple — 

The object of this book, as stated in the 
preface, is to try and throw some Ught on 
the function of art, that is on what it has done, 
and still does to-day, for life. Now in the 
case of a complex growth like art, it is rarely 
if ever possible to miderstand its function — 
what it does, how it works — unless we know 
something of how that gro\\i:h began, or, if 
its origin is hid, at least of the simpler 
forms of activity that preceded it. For art, 
this earlier stage, this simpler form, which is 
indeed itself as it were an embryo and rudi- 
mentary art, we found to be — ritual. 

Ritual, then, has not been studied for its 
ovm. sake, still less for its connection with any 
particular dogma, though, as a subject of 
singular gravity and beauty, ritual is well 
worth a lifetime's study. It has been studied 
because ritual is, we believe, a frequent and 
perhaps universal transition stage between 
actual life and that peculiar contemplation 
of or emotion towards life which we call art. 
All our long examination of beast-dances, 
May-day festivals and even of Greek drama 
has had just this for its object — to make clear 
that art — save perhaps in a few specially 



206 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

gifted natures — did not arise straight out of 
life, but out of that collective emphasis of 
the needs and desires of life which we have 
agreed to call ritual. 

Our formal argument is now over and ritual 
may drop out of the discussion. But we 
would guard against a possible misunderstand- 
ing. We would not be taken to imply that 
ritual is obsolete and must drop out of life, 
giving place to the art it has engendered. It 
may well be that, for certain temperaments, 
ritual is a perennial need. Natures specially 
gifted can live lives that are emotionally 
vivid, even in the rare high air of art or science ; 
but many, perhaps most of us, breathe more 
freely in the medium, literally the midway 
space, of some collective ritual. Moreover, 
for those of us who are not artists or original 
thinkers the life of the imagination, and even 
of the emotions, has been perhaps too long 
lived at second hand, received from the artist 
ready made and felt. To-day, owing largely 
to the progress of science, and a host of other 
causes social and economic, life grows daily 
fuller and freer, and every manifestation of 
life is regarded with a new reverence. With 



RITUAL, ART AND LIFE 207 

this fresh outpouring of the spirit, this fuller 
consciousness of life, there comes a need for 
first-hand emotion and expression, and that 
expression is found for all classes in a revival 
of the ritual dance. Some of the strenuous, 
exciting, self-expressive dances of to-day are 
of the soil and some exotic, but, based as they 
mostly are on very primitive ritual, they stand 
as singular evidence of this real recurrent 
need. Art in these latter days goes back as 
it were on her o^\ti steps, recrossing the ritual 
bridge back to life. 

It remains to ask what, in the light of this 
ritual origin, is the function of art ? How do 
we relate it to other forms of life, to science, 
to religion, to morality, to philosophy? 
These are big-sounding questions, and towards 
their solution only hints here and there can 
be offered, stray thoughts that have gro^\Ti up 
out of this study of ritual origins and which, 
because they have helped the writer, are offered, 
with no thought of dogmatism, to the reader. 

We English are not supposed to be an 
artistic people, yet art, in some form or 
another, bulks large in the national life. We 
have theatres, a National Gallery, we have 



208 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

art-schools, our tradesmen provide for us 
" art-furniture," we even hear, absurdly 
enough, of "art-colours." Moreover, all this 
is not a matter of mere antiquarian interest, 
we do not simply go and admire the beauty 
of the past in museums ; a movement towards 
or about art is all alive and astir among us. 
We have new developments of the theatre, 
problem plays, Reinhardt productions, Gordon 
Craig scenery, Russian ballets. We have new 
schools of painting treading on each other's 
heels with breathless rapidity : Impressionists, 
Post-Impressionists, Futurists. Art — or at 
least the desire for, the interest in, art — is 
assuredly not dead. 

Moreover, and this is very important, we 
all feel about art a certain obligation, such as 
some of us feel about religion. There is an 
" ought " about it. Perhaps we do not really 
care much about pictures and poetry and 
music, but we feel we " ought to." In the 
case of music it has happily been at last 
recognized that if you have not an '' ear " 
3^ou cannot care for it, but two generations 
ago, owing to the unfortunate cheapness 
and popularity of keyed instruments, it was 
widely held that one half of humanity, the 



RITUAL, ART AND LIFE 209 

feminine half, " ought " to play the piano. 
This " ought " is, of course, like most social 
*' oughts," a very complex product, but its 
existence is well worth noting. 

It is worth noting because it indicates a f, 
vague feeling that art has a real value, that [I 
art is not a mere luxury, nor even a rarefied 1; 
form of pleasvire. No one feels they ought ■ 
to take pleasure in beautiful scents or in the \ 
touch of velvet ; they either do or they don't. 1 
The first point, then, that must be made clear , 
is that art is of real value to life in a perfectly i 
clear biological sense ; it invigorates, enhances, 
promotes actual, spiritual, and through it 
physical life. 

This from our historical account we should 
at the outset expect, because w^e have seen 
art, by way of ritual, arose out of life. And 
yet the statement is a sort of paradox, for 
we have seen also that art differs from ritual 
just in this, that in art, whether of the 
spectator or the creator, the " motor reac- 
tions," L e. practical life, the life of doing, is 
for the time checked. This is of the essence 
of the artist's vision, that he sees things 
detached and therefore more vividly, more 
completely, and in a different light. This is 



210 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

of the essence of the artist's emotion, that it 
is purified from personal desire. 

But, though the artist's vision and emotion 
aUke are modified, purified, they are not 
devitalized. Far from that, by detachment 
from action they are focussed and intensified. 
Life is enhanced, only it is a different kind 
of life, it is the life of the image-world, of the 
imaginsition ; it is the spiritual and human life, 
as differentiated from the life we share with 
animals. It is a life we all, as human beings, 
possess in some, but very varying, degrees; 
and the natural man will always view the 
spiritual man askance, because he is not 
''practical." But the life of imagination, cut 
off from practical reaction as it is, becomes 
in turn a motor-force causing new emotions, 
and so pervading the general life, and thus 
ultimately becoming " practical." No one 
function is completely cut off from another. 
The main function of art is probably to 
intensify and purify emotion, but it is substan- 
tially certain that, if we did not feel, we could 
not think and should not act. Still it remains 
true that, in artistic contemplation and in 
the realms of the artist's imagination not 
only are practical motor-reactions cut off, 



RITUAL, ART AND LIFE 211 

but intelligence is suffused in, and to some 
extent subordinated to, emotion. 

One function, then, of art is to feed and 
nurture the imagination and the spirit, and 
thereby enhance and invigorate the whole 
of human life. This is far removed from the 
view that the end of art is to give pleasure. 
Art does usually cause pleasure, singular and 
intense, and to that which causes such 
pleasure we give the name of Beauty. But 
to produce and enjoy Beauty is not the 
function of art. Beauty — or rather, the 
sensation of Beauty — ^is what the Greeks 
would call an epigignomenon ti telos, words 
hard to translate, something between a 
by-product and a supervening perfection, 
a thing like — ^as Aristotle ^ for once beauti- 
fully says of pleasure — "the bloom of youth 
to a healthy young body." 

That this is so we see most clearly in the 
simple fact that, when the artist begins to 
aim direct at Beauty, he usually misses it. 
We all know, perhaps by sad experience, 
that the man who seeks out pleasure for 
herself fails to find her. Let him do his work 

1 Ethics, X, 4 



212 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

well for that work's sake, exercise his 
faculties, " energize " as Aristotle would say, 
and he will find pleasure come out unawares 
to meet him with her shining face; but let 
him look for her, think of her, even desire 
her, and she hides her head. A man goes 
out hunting, thinks of nothing but following 
the hounds and taking his fences, being in at 
the death : his day is full — alas ! of pleasure, 
though he has scarcely known it. Let him 
forget the fox and the fences, think of pleasure, 
desu'e her, and he will be in at pleasure's death. 
So it is with the artist. Let him feel 
strongly, and see raptly — ^that is, in complete 
detachment. Let him cast this, his rapt 
vision and his intense emotion, into outside 
form, a statue or a painting; that form will 
have about it a nameless thing, an unearthly 
aroma, which we call beauty; this nameless 
presence will cause in the spectator a sensation 
too rare to be called pleasure, and we shall 
call it a "sense of beauty." But let the 
artist aim direct at Beauty, and she is gone, 
gone before we hear the flutter of her wings. 

The sign manual, the banner, as it were, of 
artistic creation is for the creative artist not 



RITUAL, ART AND LIFE 213 

pleasure, but something better called joy. 
Pleasure, it has been well said, is no more 
than an instrument contrived by Nature to 
obtain from the individual the preservation 
and the propagation of life. True joy is not 
the lure of life, but the consciousness of the 
triumph of creation. ^Mierever joy is, creation 
has been.^ It may be the joy of a mother 
in the physical creation of a child ; it may be 
the joy of the merchant adventurer in push- 
ing out new enterprise, or of the engineer in 
building a bridge, or of the artist in a master- 
piece accomplished; but it is always of the 
thing created. Again, contrast joy with 
glory. Glory comes with success and is 
exceedingly pleasant ; it is not joyous. Some 
men say an artist's crown is glory; his 
deepest satisfaction is in the applause of his 
fellows. There is no greater mistake; we 
care for praise just in proportion as we are 
not sure we have succeeded. To the real 
creative artist even praise and glory are 
swallowed up in the supreme joy of creation. 
Only the artist himself feels the real divine 
fire, but it flames over into the work of art, / 

^ H. Bergson, Life and Consciousness ^ Huxley Lecture, 
May 29, 1911. 



214 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

and even the spectator warms his hands at 
the glow. 

We can now, I think, understand the 
difference between the artist and true lover 
of art on the one hand, and the mere aesthete 
on the other. The aesthete does not produce, 
or, if he produces, his work is thin and scanty. 
In this he differs from the artist ; he does not 
feel so strongly and see so clearly that he is 
forced to utterance. He has no joy, only 
pleasure. He cannot even feel the reflection 
of this creative joy. In fact, he does not so 
much feel as want to feel. He seeks for 
pleasure, for sensual pleasure as his name 
says, not for the grosser kinds, but for 
pleasure of that rarefied kind that we call 
a sense of beauty. The aesthete, like the 
flirt, is cold. It is not even that his senses 
are easily stirred, but he seeks the sensation 
of stirring, and most often feigns it, not finds 
it. The aesthete is no more released from his 
own desires than the practical man, and he 
is without the practical man's healthy outlet 
in action. He sees life, not indeed in relation 
to action, but to his own personal sensation. 
By this alone he is debarred for ever from 
being an artist. As M. Andre Beaunier 



RITUAL, ART AND LIFE 215 

has well observed, by the irony of things, 
when we see life in relation to ourselves we 
cannot really represent it at all. The profli- 
gate thinks he knows w^omen. It is his irony, 
his curse that, because he sees them always 
in relation to his own desires, his own pleasure, 
he never really knows them at all. 

There is another important point. We 
have seen that art promotes a part of life, 
the spiritual, image-making side. But this 
side, wonderful though it is, is never the 
whole of actual life. There is always the 
practical side. The artist is always also a 
man. Now the aesthete tries to make his 
whole attitude artistic — ^that is, contemplative. 
He is always looking and prying and savour- 
ing, savourant, as he would say, when he 
ought to be living. The result is that there 
is nothing to savourer. All art springs by way 
of ritual out of keen emotion towards life, and 
even the power to appreciate art needs this 
emotional reality in the spectator. The aesthete 
leads at best a parasite, artistic life, dogged 
always by death and corruption. 

This brings us straight on to another 
question : What about Art and Morality ? 



216 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

Is Art immoral, or non-moral, or highly 
moral ? Here again public opinion is worth 
examining. Artists, we are told, are bad 
husbands, and they do not pay their debts. 
Or if they become good husbands and take 
to paying their debts, they take also to 
wallowing in domesticity and produce bad 
art or none at all; they get tangled in the 
machinery of practical reactions. Art, again, 
is apt to deal with risky subjects. Where 
should we be if there were not a Censor 
of Plays ? Many of these instructive attitudes 
about artists as immoral or non-moral, ex- 
plain themselves instantly if we remember 
that the artist is ipso facto detached from 
practical life. In so far as he is an artist, 
for each and every creative moment he is 
inevitably a bad husband, if being a good 
husband means constant attention to your 
wife and her interests. Spiritual creation a 
deux is a happening so rare as to be negligible. 
The remoteness of the artist, his essential 
inherent detachment from motor -reaction, 
explains the perplexities of the normal censor. 
He, being a " practical man," regards emotion 
and vision, feeling and ideas, as leading to 
action. He does not see that art arises out 



RITUAL, ART AND LIFE 217 

of ritual and that even ritual is one remove 
from practical life. In the censor's world 
the spectacle of the nude leads straight to 
desire, so the dancer must be draped; the 
problem-play leads straight to the Divorce 
Court, therefore it must be censored. The 
normal censor apparently knows nothing of 
that world where motor-reactions are cut 
off, that house made without hands, whose 
doors are closed on desire, eternal in the 
heavens. The censor is not for the moment 
a persona grata, but let us give him his due. 
He acts according to his lights and these 
often quite adequately represent the average 
darkness. A normal audience contains many 
" practical " men whose standard is the 
same as that of the normal censor. Art — that 
is vision detached from practical reactions — 
is to them an unknowTi world full of moral 
risks from which the artist is qua artist 
immune. 

So far we might perhaps say that art was 
non-moral. But the statement would be 
misleading, since, as we have seen, art is 
in its very origin social, and social means 
human and collective. Moral and social are, 
in their final analysis, the same. That human, 



218 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

collective emotion, out of which we have seen 
the choral dance arise, is in its essence moral ; 
that is, it unites. " Art," says Tolstoy, " has 
this characteristic, that it unites people." 
In this conviction, as we shall later see, he 
anticipates the modern movement of the 
Unanimists (p. 249). 

But there is another, and perhaps simpler, 
way in which art is moral. As already sug- 
gested, it purifies by cutting off the motor- 
reactions of personal desire. An artist deeply 
in love with his friend's wife once said : ''If 
only I could paint her and get what I w^ant 
from her, I could bear it." His w4sh strikes 
a chill at first ; it sounds egotistic ; it has the 
peculiar, instinctive, inevitable cruelty of the 
artist, seeing in human nature material for 
his art. But it shows us the moral side of 
art. The artist was a good and sensitive man ; 
he saw the misery he had brought and would 
bring to people he loved, and he saw, or rather 
felt, a way of escape; he saw that through 
art, through vision, through detachment, 
desire might be slain, and the man within 
him find peace. To some natures this in- 
stinct after art is almost their sole morality. 
If they find themselves intimately entangled 



RITUAL, ART AND LIFE 219 

In hate or jealousy or even contempt, so that 
they are unable to see the object of their hate 
or jealousy or contempt in a clear, quiet and 
lovely light, they are restless, miserable, 
morally out of gear, and they are constrained 
to fetter or slay personal desire and so find 
rest. 

This aloofness, this purgation of emotion 
from personal passion, art has in common 
with philosophy. If the philosopher will 
seek after truth, there must be, says Plotinus, 
a " turning away " of the spirit, a detach- 
ment. He must aim at contemplation; 
action, he says, is " a weakening of contem- 
plation." Our word theory, which we use in 
connection with reasoning and which comes 
from the same Greek root as theatre, means 
really looking fixedly at, contemplation; it 
is very near in meaning to our imagination. 
But the philosopher differs from the artist 
in this : he aims not only at the contempla- 
tion of truth, but at the ordering of truths, he 
seeks to make of the whole universe an in- 
telligible structure. Further, he is not driven 
by the gadfly of creation, he is not forced to 
cast his images into visible or audible shape. 



i 



220 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

He is remoter from the push of Hfe. Still, 
the philosopher, like the artist, lives in a world 
of his own, with a spell of its own near akin 
to beauty, and the secret of that spell is 
the same detachment from the tyranny of 
practical life. The essence of art, says Santa- 
yana, is " the steady contemplation of things 
in their order and worth." He might have 
been defining philosophy. 

If art and philosophy are thus near akin, 
art and science are in their beginning, though 
not in their final development, contrasted. 
Science, it seems, begins with the desire 
for practical utility. Science, as Professor 
Bergson has told us, has for its initial aim 
the making of tools for life. Man tries to 
find out the laws of Nature, that is, how 
natural things behave, in order primarily that 
he may get the better of them, rule over 
them, shape them to his ends. That is why 
science is at first so near akin to magic — the 
cry of both is : 

" I'll do, I'll do, and I'll do." 

But, though the feet of science are thus firmly 
planted on the solid ground of practical action, 



RITUAL, ART AND LIFE 221 

her head, too, sometimes touches the highest 
heavens. The real man of science, Hke the 
philosopher, soon comes to seek truth and 
knowledge for their own sake. In art, in 
science, in philosophy, there come eventually 
the same detachment from personal desire 
and practical reaction ; and to artist, man of 
science, and philosopher alike, through this 
detachment there comes at times the same 
peace that passeth all understanding. 

Attempts have been often made to claim 
for art the utility, the tool-making property, 
that characterizes the beginnings of science. 
Nothing is beautiful, it is sometimes said, 
that is not useful; the beauty of a jug or a 
table depends, we are often told, on its perfect 
adaptation to its use. There is here some 
confusion of thought and some obvious, 
but possibly unconscious, special pleading. 
Much of art, specially decorative art, arises 
out of utilities, but its aim and its criterion 
is not utility. Art may be structural, com- 
memorative, magical, w^hat-not, may grow up 
out of all manner of practical needs, but it 
is not till it is cut loose from these practical 
needs that Art is herself and comes to her 
own. This does not mean that the jugs or 



222 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

tables are to be bad jugs or tables, still less 
does it mean that the jugs or tables should 
be covered with senseless machine-made orna- 
ment ; but the utility of the jug or table is a 
good in itself independent of, though often 
associated with, its merit as art. 

No one has, I think, ever called Art '' the 
handmaid of Science." There is, indeed, no 
need to establish a hierarchy. Yet in a sense 
the converse is true and Science is the hand- 
maid of Art. Art is only practicable as we 
have seen, when it is possible safely to cut off 
motor-reactions. By the long discipline of 
ritual man accustomed himself to slacken his 
hold on action, and be content with a shadowy 
counterfeit practice. Then last, when through 
knowledge he was relieved from the need of 
immediate reaction to imminent realities, he 
loosed hold for a moment altogether, and was 
free to look, and art was born. He can never 
quit his hold for long ; but it would seem that, 
as science advances and life gets easier and 
easier, safer and safer, he may loose his hold 
for longer spaces. Man subdues the world 
about him first by force and then by reason ; 
and when the material world is mastered and 
lies at his beck, he needs brute force no longer, 



RITUAL, ART AND LIFE 223 

and needs reason no more to make tools for 
conquest. He is free to think for thought's 
sake, he may trust intuition once again, and 
above all dare to lose himself in contemplation, 
dare to be more and more an artist. Only 
here there lurks an almost ironical danger. 
Emotion towards life is the primary stuff of 
which art is made ; there might be a shortage 
of this very emotional stuff of which art herself 
is ultimately compacted. 

Science, then, helps to make art possible 
by making life safer and easier, it " makes 
straight in the desert a highway for our God." 
But only rarely and ^\dth special limitations 
easily understood does it provide actual 
material for art. Science deals with abstrac- 
tions, concepts, class names, made by the 
intellect for convenience, that we may handle 
life on the side desirable to us. When we 
classify things, give them class-names, we 
simply mean that we note for convenience 
that certain actually existing objects have 
similar qualities, a fact it is convenient for 
us to know and register. These class-names '\ 
being abstract — that is, bundles of qualities '^ j 
rent away from living actual objects, do not \ 
easilv stir emotion, and, therefore, do not 



224 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

easily become material for art whose function 
it is to express and communicate emotion. 
Particular qualities, like love, honour, faith, 
may and do stir emotion ; and certain bundles 
of qualities like, for example, motherhood tend 
towards personification ; but the normal class 
label like horse, man, triangle does not easily 
become material for art ; it remains a practical 
utility for science. 

The abstractions, the class-names of 
science are in this respect quite different 
from those other abstractions or unrealities 
already studied — the gods of primitive re- 
ligion. The very term we use shows this. 
Abstractions are things, qualities, dragged 
away consciously by the intellect, from actual 
things objectively existing. The primitive 
gods are personifications — i. e. collective 
emotions taking shape in imagined form. 
Dionysos has no more actual, objective exist- 
ence than the abstract horse. But the god 
Dionysos was not made by the intellect for 
practical convenience, he was begotten by 
emotion, and, therefore, he re-begets it. He 
and all the other gods are, therefore, the 
proper material for art; he is, indeed, one of 
the earliest forms of art. The abstract horse. 



RITUAL, ART AND LIFE 225 

on the other hand, is the outcome of reflection. 
We must honour him as of quite extraordinary- 
use for the purposes of practical hfe, but he 
leaves us cold and, by the artist, is best 
neglected. 

There remains the relation of Art to Reli- 
gion.^ By now, it may be hoped, this relation 
is transparently clear. The whole object of 
the present book has been to show how 
primitive art grew out of ritual, how art is 
in fact but a later and more sublimated, more 
detached form of ritual. We saw further 
that the primitive gods themselves were but 
projections or, if we like it better, personifi- 
cations of the rite. They arose straight out 
of it. 

Now we say advisedly " primitive gods," 
and this with no intention of obscurantism. 
The god of later days, the unknown source 
of life, the unresolved mystery of the world, is 
not begotten of a rite, is not, essentially not, 
the occasion or object of art. With his relation 
to art — which is indeed practically non- 
existent — we have nothing to do. Of the other 

^ Religion is here used as meaning the worship of some 
form of god, as the practical counterpart of theology. 



226 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

gods we may safely say that not only are they 
objects of art, they are its prime material; in 
a word, primitive theology is an early stage in 
the formation of art. Each primitive god, 
like the rite from which he sprang, is a half- 
way house between practical life and art ; he 
comes into being from a half, but only half, 
inhibited desire. 

Is there, then, no difference, except in 
degree of detachment, between religion and 
art? Both have the like emotional power; 
both carry with them a sense of obligation, 
though the obligation of religion is the 
stronger. But there is one infallible criterion 
between the two which is all-important, and 
of wide-reaching consequences. Primitive 
religion asserts that her imaginations have 
objective existence; art more happily makes 
no such claim. The worshipper of Apollo 
believes, not only that he has imagined the 
lovely figure of the god and cast a copy of 
its shape in stone, but he also believes that 
in the outside world the god Apollo exists as 
an object. Now this is certainly untrue; 
that is, it does not correspond with fact. 
There is no such thing as the god Apollo, and 



RITUAL, ART AND LIFE 227 

science makes a clean sweep of Apollo and 
Dionysos and all such fictitious objectivities; 
they are eidoJa, idols, phantasms, not objective 
realities. Apollo fades earlier than Dionysos 
because the worshipper of Dionysos keeps 
hold of the reality that he and his church or 
group have projected the god. He knows 
that prieTy c'est elaborer Dieu ; or, as he w^ould 
put it, he is " one with " his god. Religion 
has this in common wdth art, that it discredits 
the actual practical world; but only because 
it creates a nevv' world and insists on its 
actuality and objectivity. 

Why does the conception of a god impose 
obligation ? Just because and in so far as 
he claims to have objective existence. By 
giving to his god from the outset objective 
existence the worshipper prevents his god 
from taking his place in that high king- 
dom of spiritual realities which is the 
imagination, and sets him down in that lower 
objective world which always compels prac- 
tical reaction. What might have been an 
ideal becomes an idol. Straightway this ob- 
jectified idol compels all sorts of ritual reactions 
of prayer and praise and sacrifice. It is 
as though another and a more exacting and 



228 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

commanding fellow-man were added to the 
universe. Eut a moment's reflection will 
show that, when we pass from the vague 
sense of power or mana felt by the savage 
to the personal god, to Dionysos or Apollo, 
though it may seem a set back it is a 
real advance. It is the substitution of a 
human and tolerably humane power for an 
incalculable whimsical and often cruel force. 
The idol is a step towards, not a step from, 
the ideal. Ritual makes these idols, and 
it is the business of science to shatter them 
and set the spirit free for contemplation. 
Ritual must wane that art may wax. 

But we must never forget that ritual is 
the bridge by which man passes, the ladder 
by which he climbs from earth to heaven. 
The bridge must not be broken till the transit 
is made. And the time is not yet. We must 
not pull down the ladder till we are sure the 
last angel has climbed. Only then, at last, 
we dare not leave it standing. Earth pulls 
hard, and it may be that the angels who 
ascended might descend and be for ever fallen. 

It may be well at the close of our enquiry 
to test the conclusions at which we have 



RITUAL, ART AND LIFE 229 

arrived by comparing them with certain 
endoxa, as Aristotle would call them, that 
is, opinions and theories actually current at 
the present moment. We take these con- 
temporary controversies, not implying that 
they are necessarily of high moment in the 
history of art, or that they are in any funda- 
mental sense new discoveries; but because 
they are at this moment current and vital, 
and consequently form a good test for the 
adequacy of our doctrines. It will be satis- 
factory if we find our view includes these 
current opinions, even if it to some extent 
modifies them and, it may be hoped, sets 
them in a new light. 

We have already considered the theory 
that holds art to be the creation or pursuit 
or enjoyment of beauty. The other view falls 
readily into two groups : 

(1) The " imitation " theory, with its 
modification, the idealization theory, which 
holds that art either copies Nature, or, out 
of natural materials, improves on her. 

(2) The " expression " theory, w^hich holds 
that the aim of art is to express the emotions 
and thoughts of the artist. 



230 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

The " Imitation " theory is out of fashion 
now-a-days. Plato and Aristotle held it; 
though Aristotle, as we have seen, did not 
mean by " imitating Nature " quite what we 
mean to-day. The Imitation theory began 
to die down with the rise of Romanticism, 
which stressed the personal, individual emotion 
of the artist. Whistler dealt it a rude, ill- 
considered blow by his effective, but really 
foolish and irrelevant, remark that to attempt 
to create Art by imitating Nature was "like 
trying to make music by sitting on the piano." 
But, as already noted, the Imitation theory 
of art was really killed by the invention of 
photography. It was impossible for the 
most insensate not to see that in a work of 
art, of sculpture or painting, there was an 
element of value not to be found in the exact 
transcript of a photograph. Henceforth the 
Imitation theory lived on only in the weakened 
form of Idealization. 

The reaction against the Imitation theory 
has naturally and inevitably gone much 
too far. We have " thrown out the child 
with the bath- water." All through the present 
book we have tried to show that art arises 
from ritual, and ritual is in its essence a faded 



RITUAL, ART AND LIFE 231 

action, an imitation. Moreover, every work 
of art is a copy of something, only not a copy 
of anything having actual existence in the 
outside world. Rather it is a copy of that 
inner and highly emotionalized \asion of the 
artist wliich it is granted to him to see and 
recreate when he is released from certain 
practical reactions. 

The Impressionism that dominated the 
pictorial art of the later years of the nine- 
teenth century was largely a modified and very 
delicate imitation. Breaking with conventions 
as to how things are supposed to be — con- 
ventions mainly based not on seeing but on 
knowing or imagining — the Impressionist in- 
sists on 23urging his vision from knowledge, 
and representing things not as they are but 
as they really look. He imitates Nature not 
as a whole, but as she presents herself to his 
eyes. It was a most needful and valuable 
purgation, since painting is the art proper of 
the eye. But, when the new effects of the 
world as simply seen, the new material of 
light and shadow and tone, had been to some 
extent — never completely — mastered, there 
was inevitable reaction. Up sprang Post- 



232 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

Impressionists and Futurists. They will not 
gladly be classed together, but both have 
this in common — they are Expressionists, not 
Impressionists, not Imitators. 

The Expressionists, no matter by what 
name they call themselves, have one criterion. 
They believe that art is not the copying or 
idealizing of Nature, or of any aspect of Nature, 
but the expression and communication of the 
artist's emotion. We can see that, between 
them and the Imitationists, the Impressionists 
form a delicate bridge. They, too, focus their 
attention on the artist rather than the object, 
only it is on the artist's particular vision, his 
impression, what he actually sees, not on his 
emotion, what he feels. 

Modern life is not simple — cannot be simple 
— ought not to be ; it is not for nothing that 
we are heirs to the ages. Therefore the art 
that utters and expresses our emotion towards 
modern life cannot be simple ; and, moreover, 
it must before all things embody not only that 
living tangle which is felt by the Futurists 
as so real, but it must purge and order it, 
by complexities of tone and rhythm hitherto 
unattempted. One art, beyond all others, 
has blossomed into real, spontaneous, un- 



RITUAL, ART AND LIFE 233 

conscious life to-day, and that is Music; 
the other arts stand round arrayed, half 
paralyzed, with drooping, empty hands. The 
nineteenth century saw vast developments in 
an art that could express abstract, unlocalized, 
unpersonified feelings more completely than 
painting or poetry, the art of ^lusic. 

As a modern critic ^ has well observed : 
" In tone and rhythm music has a notation 
for every kind and degree of action and passion, 
presenting abstract moulds of its excitement, 
fluctuation, suspense, crisis, appeasement ; and 
all this anonymously^ without place, actors, 
circumstances, named or described, without 
a word spoken. Poetry has to supply definite 
thought, arguments driving at a conclusion, 
ideas mortgaged to this or that creed or 
system ; and to give force to these can com- 
mand only a few rhythms limited by the 
duration of a human breath and the pitch of 
an octave. The little effects worked out in 
this small compass music sweeps up and 
builds into vast fabrics of emotion with a 
dissolute freedom undreamed of in anv other 
art." 

1 Mr. D. S. MacColl. 



234 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

It may be that music provides for a century 
too stagnant and listless to act out its own 
emotions, too reflective to be frankly sensuous, 
a shadowy pageant of sense and emotion, 
that serves as a kaiharsis or purgation. 

Anyhow, " an art that came out of the old 
world two centuries ago, with a few chants, 
love-songs, and dances; that a century ago 
was still tied to the words of a mass or an 
opera; or threading little dance-movements 
together in a ' suite,' became in the last 
century this extraordinary debauch, in which 
the man who has never seen a battle, loved 
a woman, or worshipped a god, may not only 
ideally, but through the response of his nerves 
and pulses to immediate rhythmical attack, 
enjoy the ghosts of struggle, rapture, and 
exaltation with a volume and intricacy, an 
anguish, a triumph, an irresponsibility, un- 
heard of. An amplified pattern of action 
and emotion is given : each man may fit to 
it what images he will." ^ 

If our contention throughout this book be 
correct the Expressionists are in one matter 
abundantly right. Art, we have seen, again 

1 D. S. MacColl, Nineteenth Century Art, p. 21. (1902.) 



RITUAL, ART AND LIFE 235 

and again rises by wa}- of ritual out of emotion, 
out of life keenly and vividly livid. The 
younger generation are always talking of life ; 
they have a sort of cult of life. Some of the 
more valorous spirits among them even tend to 
disparage art that life may be the more exalted. 
" Stop painting and sculping," they cry, " and 
go and see a football match." There you have 
life ! Life is, undoubtedly, essential to art 
because life is the stuff of emotion, but some 
thinkers and artists have an oddly limited 
notion of what life is. It must, it seems, in 
the first place, be essentially physical. To sit 
and dream in your study is not to live. The 
reason of this odd limitation is easy to see. 
We all think life is especially the sort of life 
we are not living ourselves. The hard- worked 
University professor thinks that " Life " is 
to be found in a French cafe ; the polished 
London journalist looks for " Life " among 
the naked Polynesians. The cult of savagery, 
and even of simplicity, in every form, simply 
spells complex civilization and diminished 
physical vitality. 

The Expressionist is, then, triumphantly 
right in the stress he lays on emotion ; but he 
is not ricrht if he limits life to certain of 



236 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

its more elementary manifestations; and still 
less is he right, to our minds, in making life 
and art in any sense coextensive. Art, as 
we have seen, sustains and invigorates life, 
but only does it by withdrawal from these very 
same elementary forms of life, by inhibiting 
certain sensuous reactions. 

In another matter one section of Expres- 
sionists, the Futurists, are in the main right. 
The emotion to be expressed is the emotion 
of to-day, or still better to-morrow. The 
mimetic dance arose not only nor chiefly 
out of reflection on the past ; but out of either 
immediate joy or imminent fear or insistent 
hope for the future. We are not prepared per- 
haps to go all lengths, to " burn all museums " 
because of their contagious corruption, though 
we might be prepared to " banish the nude 
for the space of ten years." If there is to 
be any true living art, it must arise, not from 
the contemplation of Greek statues, not from 
the revival of folk-songs, not even from the 
re-enacting of Greek plays, but from a keen 
emotion felt towards things and people living 
to-day, in modern conditions, including, among 
other and deeper forms of life, the haste and 



RITUAL, ART AND LIFE 237 

hurry of the modem street, the whirr of motor 
cars and aeroplanes. 

There are artists alive to-day, strayed 
revellers, who wish themselves back in the 
Middle Ages, who long for the time when each 
man would have his house carved with a bit 
of lovely ornament, when every village church 
had its Madonna and Child, when, in a word, 
art and life and religion went hand in hand, 
not sharply sundered by castes and pro- 
fessions. But we may not put back the 
clock, and, if by differentiation we lose some- 
thing, we gain much. The old choral dance 
on the orchestral floor was an undifferentiated 
thing, it had a beauty of its own; but by its 
differentiation, by the severance of artist and 
actors and spectators, we have gained — ^the 
drama. We may not cast reluctant eyes back- 
wards; the world goes forward to new forms 
of life, and the Churches of to-day must and 
should become the Museums of to-morrow. 

It is curious and instructive to note that 
Tolstoy's theory of Art, though not his 
practice, is essentially Expressive and even 
approaches the dogmas of the Futurist. Art 
is to him just the transmission of personal 



238 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

emotion to others. It may be bad emotion 
or it may be good emotion, emotion it must 
be. To take his simple and instructive 
instance : a boy goes out into a wood and 
meets a wolf, he is frightened, he comes back 
and tells the other villagers what he felt, how 
he went to the wood feeling happy and light- 
hearted and the wolf came, and what the wolf 
looked like, and how he began to be frightened. 
This is, according to Tolstoy, art. Even if 
the boy never saw a wolf at all, if he had really 
at another time been frightened, and if he 
was able to conjure up fear in himself and 
communicate it to others — that also would be 
art. The essential is, according to Tolstoy, 
that he should feel himself and so represent 
his feeling that he communicates it to others.^ 
Art-schools, art-professionalism, art-criticism 
are all useless or worse than useless, because 
they cannot teach a man to feel. Only life 
can do that. 
All art is, according to Tolstoi, good qud, 

^ It is interesting to find, since the above was written, 
tliat the Confession of Faith published in the catalogue of 
the Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition (1912, p. 21) re- 
produces, consciously or unconsciously, Tolstoy's view: 
We have ceased to asky " What does this 'picture represent ? " 
and ash instead, " What does it make us feel ? " 



RITUAL, ART AND LIFE 239 

art that succeeds in transmitting emotion. 
But there is good emotion and bad emotion, 
and the only right material for art is good 
emotion, and the only good emotion, the only 
emotion worth expressing, is subsumed, ac- 
cording to Tolstoy, in the religion of the day. 
This is how he explains the constant affinity 
in nearly all ages of art and religion. Instead 
of regarding religion as an early phase of art, 
he proceeds to define religious perception as 
the highest social ideal of the moment, as 
that '' understanding of the meaning of life 
which represents the highest level to which 
men of that society have attained, an under- 
standing defining the highest good at which 
that society aims." '* Religious perception 
in a society," he beautifully adds, " is like the 
direction of a flowing river. If the river 
flows at all, it must have a direction." Thus, 
religion, to Tolstoy, is not dogma, not petri- 
faction, it makes indeed dogma impossible. 
The religious perception of to-day flows, 
Tolstoi says, in the Christian channel toAvards 
the union of man in a common brotherhood. 
It is the business of the modern artist to feel 
and transmit emotion towards this unity of 
man. 



240 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

Now it is not our purpose to examine 
whether Tolstoy's definition of rehgion is 
adequate or indeed illuminating. What we 
wish to note is that he grasps the truth that 
in art we must look and feel, and look and 
feel forward, not backward, if we would live. 
Art somehow, like language, is always feeling 
forward to newer, fuller, subtler emotions. 
She seems indeed in a way to feel ahead even 
of science ; a poet will forecast dimly what a 
later discovery will confirm. Whether and 
how long old channels, old forms will suffice 
for the new spirit can never be foreseen. 

We end with a point of great importance, 
though the doctrine we would emphasize 
may be to some a hard saying, even a stum- 
bling-block. Art, as Tolstoy divined, is social, 
not individual. Art is, as we have seen, 
social in origin, it remains and must remain 
social in function. The dance from which 
the drama rose was a choral dance, the dance 
of a band, a group, a church, a community, 
what the Greeks called a thiasos. The word 
means a hand and a thing of devotion; and 
reverence, devotion, collective emotion, is 
social in its very being. That band was, to 



RITUAL, ART AND LIFE 241 

begin with, as we saw, the whole collection of 
initiated tribesmen, linked by a common name, 
rallying round a common symbol. 

Even to-day, when individualism is ram- 
pant, art bears traces of its collective, social 
origin. We feel about it, as noted before, 
a certain " ought " which always spells social 
obligation. Moreover, whenever we have a 
new movement in art, it issues from a group, 
usually from a small professional coterie, but 
marked by strong social instincts, by a 
missionary spirit, by intemperate zeal in 
propaganda, by a tendency, always social, to 
crystallize conviction into dogma. We can 
scarcely, unless we are as high-hearted as 
Tolstoy, hope now-a-days for an art that 
shall be world-wide. The tribe is extinct, 
the family in its old rigid form moribund, the 
social groups we now look to as centres of 
emotion are the groups of industry, of pro- 
fessionalism and of sheer mutual attraction. 
Small and strange though such groups may 
appear, they are real social factors. 

Now this social, collective element in art 

is too apt to be forgotten. When an artist 

claims that expression is the aim of art he 

is too apt to mean self-expression only — 

Q 



242 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

utterance of individual emotion. Utterance 
of individual emotion is very closely neigh- 
boured by, is almost identical with, self- 
enhancement. What should be a generous, 
and in part altruistic, exaltation becomes 
mere megalomania. This egotism is, of course, 
a danger inherent in all art. The suspension 
of motor-reactions to the practical world 
isolates the artist, cuts him off from his 
fellow-men, makes him in a sense an egotist. 
Art, said Zola, is " the world seen through a 
temperament." But this suspension is, not 
that he should turn inward to feed on his 
own vitals, but rather to free him for contem- 
plation. All great art releases from self. 

The young are often temporary artists ; art, 
being based on life, calls for a strong vitality. 
The young are also self-centred and seek self- 
enhancement. This need of self-expression is 
a sort of artistic impulse. The young are, 
partly from sheer immaturity, still more 
through a foolish convention, shut out from 
real life ; they are secluded, forced to become 
in a sense artists, or, if they have not the 
power for that, at least self-aggrandizers. 
They write lyric poems, they love masquerad- 



RITUAL, ART AND LIFE 243 

ing, they focus life on to themselves in a way 
which, later on, life itself makes impossible. 
This pseudo-art, this self-aggrandizement 
usually dies a natural death before the age of 
thirty. If it live on, one remedy is, of course, 
the scientific attitude ; that attitude which is 
bent on considering and discovering the rela- 
tions of things among themselves, not their 
personal relation to us. The study of science is 
a priceless discipline in self-abnegation, but 
only in negation ; it looses us from self, it does 
not link us to others. The real and natural 
remedy for the egotism of youth is Life, not 
necessarily the haunting of cajes, or even the 
watching of football matches, but strenuous 
activity in the simplest human relations of 
daily happenings. " Whatsoever thy hand 
findeth to do, do it with thy might." 

There is always apt to be some discord 
between the artist and the large practical 
world in which he lives, but those ages are 
happiest in which the discord is least. The 
nineteenth century, amid its splendid achieve- 
ments in science and industry, in government 
and learning, and above all in humanity, 
illustrates this conflict in an interesting way. 



244 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

To literature, an art which can explain itself, 
the great public world lent on the whole a 
reverent and intelligent ear. Its great prose 
writers were at peace with their audience and 
were inspired by great public interests. Some 
of the greatest, for example Tolstoy, produced 
their finest work on widely human subjects, 
and numbered their readers and admirers 
probably by the million. Writers like Dickens, 
Thackeray, Kingsley, Mill, and Carlyle, even 
poets like Tennyson and Browning, were full 
of great public interests and causes, and, in 
different degrees and at different stages of their 
lives, were thoroughly and immensely popular. 
On the other hand, one can find, at the be- 
ginning of the period, figures like Blake and 
Shelley, and all through it a number of painters 
— the pre-Raphaelites, the Impressionists — 
walking like aliens in a Philistine world. Even 
great figures like Burne-Jones and Whistler 
were for the greater part of their lives un- 
recognized or mocked at. Millais reached the 
attention of the world, but was thought by 
the stricter fraternity to have in some sense 
or other sold his soul and committed the 
great sin of considering the bourgeois. The 
bourgeois should be despised not partially 



RITUAL, ART AND LIFE 245 

but completely. His life, his interests, his 
code of ethics and conduct must all be matters 
of entire indifference or amused contempt, 
to the true artist who intends to do his own 
true work and call his soul his own. 

At a certain moment, during the eighties 
and nineties, it looked as if these doctrines 
were generally accepted, and the divorce 
between art and the community had become 
permanent. But it seems as if this attitude, 
which coincided with a period of reaction in 
political matters and a recrudescence of a 
belief in force and on reasoned authority, is 
already passing away. There are not wanting 
signs that art, both in painting and sculpture, 
and in poetry and novel- writing, is beginning 
again to realize its social function, beginning 
to be impatient of mere individual emotion, 
beginning to aim at something bigger, more 
bound up with a feeling towards and for the 
common weal. 

Take work like that of ^Ir. Galsworthy or 
Mr. Masefield or Mr. Arnold Bennett. With- 
out appraising its merits or demerits we cannot 
but note that the social sense is always there, 
whether it be of a class or of a whole com- 
munity. In a play like Justice the writer 



246 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

does not " express " himself, he does not 
even merely show the pathos of a single 
human being's destiny, he sets before us a 
much bigger thing — man tragically caught 
and torn in the iron hands of a man-made 
machine. Society itself. Incarnate Law is 
the protagonist, and, as it happens, the villain 
of the piece. It is a fragment of Les Miser- 
ables over again, in a severer and more 
restrained technique. An art like this starts, 
no doubt, from emotion towards personal 
happenings — there is nothing else from which 
it can start ; but, even as it sets sail for wider 
seas, it is loosed from personal moorings. 

Science has given us back something 
strangely like a World- Soul, and art is begin- 
ning to feel she must utter our emotion towards 
it. Such art is exposed to an inherent and 
imminent peril. Its very bigness and newness 
tends to set up fresh and powerful reactions. 
LTnless, in the process of creation, these can 
be inhibited, the artist will be lost in the 
reformer, and the play or the novel turn 
tract. This does not mean that the artist, if 
he is strong enough, may not be reformer too, 
only not at the moment of creation. 

The art of Mr. Arnold Bennett gets its 



RITUAL, ART AND LIFE 247 

bigness, its collectivity, in part — from exten- 
sion over time. Far from seeking after beauty, 
he almost goes out to embrace ugliness. He 
does not spare us even dullness, that we may 
get a sense of the long, waste spaces of life, 
their dreary reality. We are keenly interested 
in the loves of hero and heroine, but all the 
time something much bigger is going on, 
generation after generation rolls by in cease- 
less panorama ; it is the life not of Edwin and 
Hilda, it is the life of the Five To^tls. After 
a vision so big, to come back to the ordinary 
individualistic love-story is Uke looking 
through the wrong end of a telescope. 

Art of high quality and calibre is seldom 
obscure. The great popular writers of the 
nineteenth century — Dickens, Thackeray, 
Tennyson, Tolstoy — wrote so that all could 
understand. A really big artist has something 
important to say, something vast to show, 
something that moves him and presses on 
him; and he will say it simply because he 
must get it said. He will trick it out with 
no devices, most of all with no obscurities. 
It has vexed and torn him enough while it 
was pushing its way to be born. He has no 
peace till it is said, and said as clearly as he 



248 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

may. He says it, not consciously for the 
sake of others, but for himself, to ease him 
from the burden of big thought. Moreover, 
art, whose business is to transmit emotion, 
should need no commentary. Art comes out 
of theoria, contemplation, steady looking at, 
but never out of theory. Theory can neither 
engender nor finally support it. An exhibi- 
tion of pictures with an explanatory catalogue, 
scientifically interesting though it may be, 
stands, in a sense, self-condemned. 

We must, however, remember that all art 
is not of the whole community. There are 
small groups feeling their own small but 
still collective emotion, fashioning their own 
language, obscure sometimes to all but them- 
selves. They are right so to fashion it, but, 
if they appeal to a wider world, they must 
strive to speak in the vulgar tongue, under- 
standed of the people. 

It is, indeed, a hopeful sign of the times, a 
mark of the revival of social as contrasted 
with merely individualistic instincts that 
a younger generation of poets, at least in 
France, tend to form themselves into small 
groups, held together not merely by eccen- 



RITUAL, ART AND LIFE 249 

tricities of language or garb, but by some deep 
inner conviction strongly held in common. 
Such a unity of spirit is seen in the works of 
the latter group of thinkers and writers 
known as Unanimists. They tried and failed 
to found a community. Their doctrine, if 
doctrine convictions so fluid can be called, is 
strangely like the old group-religion of the 
common dance, only more articulate. Of the 
Unanimist it might truly be said, " il huvait 
Vindistinction.^^ To him the harsh old Roman 
mandate Divide et impera, '' Divide men that 
you may rule them, " spells death. His dream 
is not of empire and personal property but 
of the realization of life, common to all. To 
this school the great reality is the social group, 
whatever form it take, family, village or town. 
Their only dogma is the unity and immeasur- 
able sanctity of life. In practice they are 
Christian, yet wholly free from the asceticism 
of modern Christianity. Their attitude in art is 
as remote as possible from, it is indeed the very 
antithesis to, the aesthetic exclusiveness of 
the close of last century. Like St. Peter, the 
Unanimists have seen a sheet let down and 
heard a voice from heaven saying : " Call 
thou nothing common nor unclean " 



250 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

Above all, the Unanimist remembers and 
realizes afresh the old truth that " no man 
liveth unto himself." According to the 
Expressionist's creed, as we have seen, the 
end of art is to utter and communicate emo- 
tion. The fullest and finest emotions are 
those one human being feels towards another. 
Every sympathy is an enrichment of life, 
every antipathy a negation. It follows then, 
that, for the Unanimist, Love is the fulfilling 
of his Law. 

It is a beautiful and life-giving faith, felt 
and with a perfect sincerity expressed towards 
all nature by the Indian poet Tagore, and 
towards humanity especially by M. Vildrac in 
his Book of Love ("Livre d'Amour"). He 
tells us in his " Commentary " how to-day 
the poet, sitting at home with pen and paper 
before him, feels that he is pent in, stifled 
by himself. He had been about to re-tell 
the old, old story of himself, to set himself 
once more on the stage of his poem — the 
same old dusty self tricked out, costumed 
anew. Suddenly he knows the figure to be 
tawdry and shameful. He is hot all over 
when he looks at it; he must out into the 
air, into the street, out of the stuffy museum 



RITUAL, ART AND LIFE 251 

where so long he has stirred the dead egotist 
ashes, out into the bigger Hfe, the Hfe of his 
fellows; he must live, with them, by them, 
in them. 

" I am weary of deeds done inside myself, 
I am weary of voyages inside myself, 
And of heroism wTOught by strokes of the 

pen. 
And of a beauty made up of formulae. 

*' I am ashamed of lying to my work, 
Of my work lying to my life. 
And of being able to content myself, 
By burning sweet spices. 
With the mouldering smell that is master 
here." 

Again, in " The Conquerors," the poet 
dreams of the Victorious One who has no army, 
the Knight who rides afoot, the Crusader 
without breviary or scrip, the Pilgrim of Love 
who, by the shining in his eyes, draws all 
men to him, and they in turn draw other men 
until, at last : 

" The time came in the land, 
The time of the Great Conquest, 



252 ANCIENT ART AND RITUAL 

When the people with this desire 
Left the threshold of their door 
To go forth towards one another. 

" And the time came in the land 
When to fill all its story 
There was nothing but songs in unison, 
One round danced about the houses, 
One battle and one victory." 

And so our tale ends where it began, with 
the Choral Dance. 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 

For Ancient and Primitive Ritual the best general book 
reference is : 

Frazer, J. G. The Golden Bough, 3rd edition," 1911, from "j 

which most of the instances in the present manual are I 

taken. Part IV of The Golden Bough, i. e. the section :j 

dealing with Adonis, Attis, and Osiris, should especially \ 

be consulted. ^ 

Also an earlier, epoch-making book : 

Robertson Smith, W. Lectures on the Religion of tJie Semites, 
1889. For certain fundamental ritual notions, e. g. sacri- 
fice, holiness, etc. 

For the Greek Drama, as arising out of the ritual dance : 
Professor Gilbert Murray's Excursus on the Ritual Forms 
preserved in Greek Traged.y in J. E. Harrison's Themis, 
1912, and pp. 327-40 in the same book ; and for the religion of 
Dionysos and the drama, J. E. Harrison's Prolegmnena, 1907, 
Chapters VIII and X. An important discussion of the relation 
of tragedy to the winter festival of the Leimia will appear in 
Mr. A. B. Cook's forthcoming Zeus, vol. i, sec. 6 (xxi). 

For Primitive Art : 

HiRN, Y. The Origins of Art, 1900. The main theory of the 
book the present writer believes to be inadequate, but it 
contains an excellent collection of facts relating to Art, 
Magic, Art and Work, Mimetic Dances, etc., and much 
valuable discussion of principles. 

Grosse, E. Th^, Beginnings of Art, 1897, in the Chicago | 
Anthropological Series. Valuable for its full illusti'ations 
of primitive art, as well as for t«xt. 
253 



254 BIBLIOGRAPHY 

For the Theory of Art : 

Tolstoy, L. WTiat is Art? Translated by Aylmer Maude, 
in the Scott Library. 

Fry, Roger E. An Essay in JEsthetic^, in the New Quarterly, 
April 1909, p. 174. 
This is the best general statement of the function of Art 
known to me. It sliould be read in connection with Mr. 
Bullough's article, quoted on p. 129, which gives the psycho- 
logical basis of a similar view of the nature of art. My own 
theory was formulated independently, in relation to the 
development of the Greek theatre, but I am very glad to find 
that it is in substantial agreement with those of two such 
distinguished authorities on aesthetics. 

For more advanced students : 

DussAUZE, Henri. Les Regies c$th6tiques et les lois du 
sentiment, 1911. 

Muller-Freienfels, R. Psychologic der Kunst, 1912. 



/ 



INDEX 



Abstraction, •224 

Adoiiis, rites of, 19, 20, 54-56 

, gardens of, 149 

, as tiee spirit, 149 

Aesthete, not artist, 214-215 
Agon, 15 

Anagnorisis, or recognition, 15 
Anthesteria, spring festival of, 

147-149 
Apollo Belvedere, 171 
Aristotle on art, 198 
Art and beauty, 213 

and imitation, 230 

and morality, 215 

and nature, 198 

and religion, 225 

, emotional factor in, 26 

, social elements in, 241-248 

Ascension festival, 69 

Bear, Aino festival, 92-99 
Beast dances, 45, 46 
Beauty and art, 211 
Bergsou on art, 134 
Birth, rites of new, 104-1] 3 
Bouphonia, 91-92 
Bull-driving in spring, 85 
, festival at Magnesia, 87 

Cat's-cradle, as magical charm, 66 
Censor, function of, 216 
Charila, spring festival, 80 
Chorus in Greek drama, 121-123 

Dancing, a work, 30-31 

, magical, 31-35 

, commemorative, 44 

Daphnephoros, 186 



Death and winter, 67-72 
Dike as way oflije, 116 
Dionysia, 12, 150 
Dionyeos as Holy Child, 103 

as tree god, 102 

as young man, 113-115 

Dithyramb, 75-89 

Drama and Dromenon, 35-38 

Easter, in Modem Greece, 73 
Eiresione, 114 
Epheboi, Athenian, 12 
Euche, meaning of, 25 
Expressionists, 232 

Futurists, 232 

Ghosts as fertilizers, 149 

Homer, influence on drama. 145- 

166 
Horae or seasons, 116 

Idol and ideal, 227 
Imprcssionisna, 231 
Imitation, 21-23 

, ceremonies in Australia, 04 

Individualism, 241 

Initiation ceremonies, 64, 106-113 

Jack-in-the-Green, 60, 187; 190 

Kangaroos, dance of, 46 

Landscape, art of, 199-201 

Maeterlinck, 200 
May-day at Cambridge, 57 



255 



256 



INDEX 



May, queen of the, 57-61 
— -, king of the, 193 
Mime, meaning of, 47 
Mimesis, 43-47 
Music, function of, 233 

New birth, 106-113 

Olympian gods, 202 
Orchestra, meaning of, 123-127 
Osiris, rites of, 15-23, 51 
Ox-hunger, 81 

Panathenaia, 178 

Panspermia, 148 

Parthenon frieze, 17G 

Peisistratos, 146 

Peplos of Athena, 180 

Pericles on religion, 178 

Personification and conception 

70-73 
Plato on art, 21-23 
Pleasure not joy, 213 
Post-impressionists, 238 
Prayer discs, 24 
Presentation, meaning of, 53 
Psychical distance. 129-134 

Representation, 34-41 
Resurrection, rites of, 100 
Rites, periodicity of, 52 
Ritual forms in drama, 138-139 



Santayana on art, 220 
Semele, bringing up of, 81 
Spring song at Saffron Walden, 59 

at Athens, 77 

Stage or scene, 142-145 
Summer, bringing in of, 67-71 

Tammuz, rites of, 18-20 

Telete, rite of growing up, 112 

Theatre, 10-13, 136 

Themis, as ritual custom, 117 

Theoria and theory, 248 

Threshing-floor as dancing-place, 

124 
Tolstoy on art, 132, 238-241 
Totemism and beast dances, 46, 

47 
Tragedy, ritual forms in, 119-122 

, origin of, 76 

Tug of war, among Esquimaux, 62 

Unanimism, 249-252 

Vegetation spirit, 72 

Winter, caiTying out of, 68-72 
Wool, sacred, 12 
World-soul, 246 
Wreaths, festival of, 189 
, at Greek weddings, 190 

Zola on art, 2*2 



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I 



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6 



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Oxfcrd. 

In Preparation 

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BETWEEN THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS. By R. H. 

Charles, D.D. 
A HISTORY 0/ ER EE DOM 0/ THOUGHT. By Prof. J. B. Bury, LL.D. 
A HISTORY OE PHILOSOPHY. By Cleme.nt Webb, M.A. 



Social Science 



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— Yorkshire P' St. 

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By J. Ramsav MacDonald, M.P. "Admirably adapted for the purpose of 
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II. CONSERVATISM 

By Lord Hugh Cecil, M.A., M.P. " One of those great little books which 
seldom appear more than once in a generation." — Morning Post. 

7 



1 6. THE SCIENCE OF WEALTH 

By J. A HoBsoN, M.A. " Mr J. A. Hubsoii holds an unique position ar 
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21. LIBERALISM 



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interested in the present state of unrest." — Aberdeen Journal. 

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By Prof. W. Somekvili.e, F.L..S. "It makes the results of laboratory work 
at the University accessible to the practical farmer." — Athene?u>n. 

30 ELEMENTS OF ENGLISH LA W 

By W. M. r.KLUAKT, xM A., B.C.L., Vinrrian Professor of English Law at 
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38. THE SCHOOL: An Introduction to the Study of Education. 

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inclusiveness of subject-matter." — Morning Post. 

59. ELEMENTS OF POLITICAL ECONOMY 

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University. " Its importance is not to be measured by its price. Probably 
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science."- -Glasgow Herald. 

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In Preparation 

POLITICAL THOUGHT IN ENGLAND: From Bacon to Locke. 
By G. P. GoocH, M.A. 

POLITIC -'L rn OUGHT IN ENGLAND: From Bent ham to J. S. 
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POLIl fCAL THOUGHT IN ENGLAND: From Herbert Spencer 
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SHELLEY, GODWIN, AND THEIR CIRCLE. By H. N. Brails- 
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THE CRIMINAL AND THE COMMUNITY. By Viscount St. 
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COMMONS ENS F. IN LAW. By Prof. P. Vinogradoff, D.C.L, 

THE CIVIL SERVICE. By Graham Wai.las, M A. 

ENGLISH VILLAGE LIFE. By E. N. Bennett, M.A. 

CO-PARTNERSHIP AND PROFIT - SHAR-ING. By Anedrin 
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THE SOCIAL SE'^TLEMENT. By Jane Addams and R. A. Woods. 

GREA T INVENTIONS. By Prof. J. L. Myres, M.A., F.S.A. 

TOWN PLANNING. By Raymond Unwin. 

London: WILLIAMS AND NORGATE 

And of all Books, 'wps and Bookstalls. 



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